the aspen temple

aspen grove

We learn to praise God not by paying compliments, but by paying attention. Watch how the trees exult when the wind is in them. Mark the utter stillness of the great blue heron in the swamp. Listen to the sound of the rain. Learn how to say “Hallelujah” from the ones who say it right. – Frederick Buechner


I walk down the hill to a shimmering grove of aspen, whose leaves dance together with each breeze, whose very trunks seem to sway in reverent unison, humming in silent tones a melody of wonder.

I step inside the grove. Even the air is different here. It is a crystal essence through which I walk, almost touchable, caressing me like water in a cool steam. The trees have formed a temple, more holy, more pure than any that could be made by human hands. The trunks of the great trees form living columns and the canopy of dancing leaves become the roof. The ground, the floor of this living temple, is a patterned tapestry of grasses, growing lush and resilient, too much for the shady space within a wood. Fed by the crystal air and held in harmony by the holiness of the place, the grassy floor spreads forth its beauty.

I stand at the edge of this temple of trees, full of wonder, drinking in with every breath a little of the essence that makes the very air glow. I am filled with worship, with praise, with wonder at the majesty and grace of God, with this perfect harmony, the almost crushing presence in each leaf and blade. The whole earth trembles, barely able to hold the essence that has poured itself into this form. The God of all creation, the God of each blade of grass, the God who formed my very soul – this God inhabits this place in a way that is more real than I have yet seen. Here worship is not an obligation, it is the overflow of wonder too big to be contained within such a small space as one’s own heart.

I drop to my knees – not in shame or even humility — for the glory of the place has driven out all preoccupation with self. I drop to the ground because I am overwhelmed with — what words are there? – more awesome than joy and not so selfish as gratitude, I am wrapped with an all encompassing love. It calls me into being; a being beyond who I could ever hope to be. It calls not for duty, not for obligation, but for creation itself.

Even worship is not a gift I give, but a gift to me. I never knew.

What can I give to the One who has created all? Only that which has already been given to me – and which I can withhold or offer, as if I, myself, had made it. I give my heart, and in the giving, I participate in its creation – in its recreation.

In this crystal moment, the Holy One reaches down into this temple of trees and lifts me to herself, hugs me to her own heart. There my heart is bound with hers and beats in timid rhythm with her own.

Oh majestic wonder, I feel it still, quietly beating inside me as I begin my day.


[photo by Rob Lee per cc 2.0]

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