This week I’m in Louisville, KY, at the Spiritual Directors International conference, where I am honored to participate with other young spiritual directors and guides as a New Contemplative. As part of the New Contemplative Initiative, we were invited to write reflections on the conference’s theme, “Emerging Wisdom,” and I thought I’d share mine here with you. Any surprise that the theme took me straight to my daily walks in the forest?
Each day I make my way down my busy street and into the quiet neighborhood that leads to Ravenna Park.
The park’s entry is along a small path hidden at the dead end, however once you cross the threshold into the park you’ll find that there is nothing small about it. The path begins at a bridge straddling a grand ravine, offering an aerial view of the forest below filled with ferns, streams, woodland creatures, and a few passersby seeking nourishment from the natural world. These sensations of the forest quickly transport me, and it doesn’t take long for me to forget that I’m in the heart of Seattle.
Over the past six months these walks to Ravenna Park have become my most treasured spiritual practice, and I like to think that the forest and I are developing and deep and lasting friendship. As a frequent visitor, it’s been a gift to witness the changing landscape of the forest—from the abundance of summer to the golden leaves of autumn and the quiet hibernation of winter. Now we are slowly transitioning to the season of spring, and the signs of emergence I witness on my daily walks whisper truths to me of the emerging nature of wisdom within our own spiritual search.
This being my first winter to visit the forest, I had expected the coldest season of the year to be dismal with its bare limbs and dark days. After all, what could follow the grandeur of fall? However, I was surprised to find early on in winter new buds already forming on the trees that had just released their leaves as if already prepared to emerge anew. In the same way, the bright green moss seemed to spread across the trees in ways it hadn’t in the summertime. It seemed the darkness and dampness of winter was just what it needed to thrive.
The forest was showing me that this season of hibernation wasn’t a season of death, but of preparation for new and wild growth. I was invited to simply bear witness to the wisdom of this ecosystem that has followed a continuous cycle of emergence for millennia, and it didn’t take long for me to notice the insight it had to offer for my own journey.
Although the new buds appeared early in winter—a promise of new growth to come—I noticed that they took their time to blossom, waiting patiently for months until the season was ripe. I noticed how the moss became the champion of winter, soaking up the season’s rains like a sponge and spreading color and life wherever it could find a host. And I noticed how on the day that it was finally time for the small buds to blossom, they exploded in celebration as if they had been preparing for this moment all along, their bright green confetti transforming into white flowers that dotted the landscape at every turn.
Now that spring is nearly here, these blossoms have made way for green leaves that are growing rapidly, ready to claim their identity as the trees they truly are. When I think of the theme of “Emerging Wisdom,” I can’t help but think of this season in the park as the forest journeyed toward new life. I’m reminded that, as with the early buds, wisdom develops slowly beneath the surface in seasons of hibernation and bursts forth when the time is ripe. I recall that, like the moss, these times of waiting are ideal for soaking up inspiration and clinging to sources of life wherever they’re found. And I’m learning that, as with the natural rhythms of the forest, the emergence of wisdom is an organic process facilitated by the Divine—to receive new insight, all we have to do is be open and patient, noticing the stirrings deep within as we wait for new revelation.
What is emerging within you in this season?