Ghost gum shedding

Our kitchen window looks out over a panorama of slender gum trees and right in my sight line, at the point where our sloping driveway meets the dirt road, is a massive ghost gum. Like me, it’s old, and it’s got scars where it’s lost a few branches over the years. Last year I spent a lot of lockdown, hard and just the ordinary type, standing at the sink, admiring its beauty as month by month the grey white trunk gradually morphing into shades of red and orange.

Now we’re half way through February and all that colour, faded now to shades of brown, is peeling off in long strips. They litter the driveway, clog up the stony gutters and catch in the shrubbery – and sets me reflecting about the word shedding, the way it has undertones of letting go, and how much that we took for granted was let go in 2020.  

As life goes on we grow and change we let go of so much, sometimes joyfully, occasionally reluctantly, often carelessly. We leave school behind, grieve the death of loved ones, say goodbye to a favourite house, change our minds about things we once believed would always stay the same. Which leads me back to my shedding ghost gum and how that always happens round about the beginning of Lent and . . .yes, Lent.

The ghost gum reminds me that the bark isn’t the tree. When the time is right the tree lets go of its tatters of old bark to welcome the new life that waits within its towering height.  As I’ve aged, one constant in my faith life has been my Baptism. But I’ve shed a lot of the beliefs and practices that I once assumed were necessary to be a good Catholic. Slowly they have been replaced by a different, more adult way of relating to God, a broadening of compassion, of finding out that prayer can be an appreciation of quiet spaces without words, that the Spirit of God speaks through both women and men.

A small shred of bark on my desk to reminds me that I have now come to a place of peace in the way I live out my faith. Where once upon a time I gave up lollies, now, like my ghost gum, the letting-go that I still associate with Lent is part of my everyday. That’s my Lent, 2021.

Judith Scully

Edging into 2021

Last year, about the same time as Covid 19 became the backdrop to my days, I began reading The Silent Cry by Dorothee Solle, an exploration of mysticism. It’s not an easy read, which partly explains why I sometimes only mange a paragraph or two before setting it aside for a while. One such paragraph has recently set me musing, even dreaming a little. The Society of Friends, better known as Quakers, are mystics whose mysticism is firmly placed in the here and now. Back in 1668 there were so many of them that they formed into a loose kind of Christian religion, but one without dogma, without church buildings and without clergy.  I took a deep breath!

For months at a time Covid 19 has kept us outside church buildings, inviting us to notice the wondrous presence of God in familiar landscapes and in one another. It’s been like a gap year. The structures that prop up our religious practices have been absent and we’ve had time to experience God in our lives in new ways. As a nation we have hailed an Aboriginal woman as our Senior of the Year, a woman whose message is not couched in theological jargon but in the mysticism of dadirri, finding the deep God-spring within each and every one us.  

Did you start 2021 with a good resolution or two? If so, how is it travelling?

It’s not too late to dig a little deeper and instead of setting yourself a target or two that will probably be difficult to meet, why not choose your own personal Word of the Year.  It doesn’t have to be a single word. It can be a pithy kind of phrase, something relevant to who you are. It will be a word that over a whole year has the power to nourish as well as challenge you, an invitation to step over an unfamiliar threshold and open the door to a kinder, better, more courageous or reflective you. Think of it as a one word prayer to your support person – God.

Every time I write Words from the Edge I am aware of a reluctance in myself to speak out from a feminine viewpoint, even though my life as a Catholic woman has involved me in many different facets of Church life. Restrictions, rules or just long tradition, mean there is a long list of ‘no-go’ areas if you are a Catholic woman involved in ministry. We need to talk calmly, and sometimes passionately, about the things in Church that disturb and challenge us. Over the centuries the voices of women such as the  Canaanite woman, the woman at the well and the woman who was bent over, have been muffled by layers of male interpretation. Inspiration and strength can come from scriptural no-name women. Their stories can be a source of inspiration as today’s women discover or identify their own peculiarly feminine experience of God. We are invited to leave the zone that has us walking in the shadow of an authoritarian male leadership structure, and model a more ‘round table’, collaborative way of being Church.

Judith Scully