The “mom” in me was already excited about this day. A playdate in the park, friends, picnic lunch, fun for the littles that did not require my own Pinterest research, and enough outside play to promise a nap. What’s not to love? The “people person” in me was excited about adult conversation, even if it was interrupted by the occasional “hands to yourself” and “use your nice words” every few minutes.
Mostly, the “wondering” in me could not wait to see the owls.
I had heard about these owls all week, since they were sculpted by a local artist. There was a massive tree in the middle of the park that needed to be removed. Instead, its trunk became art. A one hundred year old cedar tree that had decayed and been cut to the stump was transformed into an amazing piece of art. Chris Lantz is an artist who uses a chainsaw – a CHAINSAW – to carve and scupt things into beautiful works of art.
I’m just going to leave that there for a minute, for you, my preacher-teacher-thinker-artist friends . . .
Old tree. Dying. Rather than being removed, it was transformed by an artist with an eye for what could be.
Yep. Go right on ahead with your imagery, dreamer friends. It’s all there. Rich history, renewal, artistry, rebirth, wisdom, hope.
All of that. And it is the coolest piece of art my child has ever played on.
Well, if that isn’t a provocative dare to a curious band of three year olds, I don’t know what is.
“It’s not a tree. It’s a little bit of tree, but it’s a bird.”
“It’s an owl. Hoo-hoooooo!”
“It’s two owls!”
Their claims continued as they touched the wood, stuck their little noses through the knot holes and climbed up.
They remembered what they had been told, that this used to be a tree.
I remembered what transformation can look like.
It looks like something whose vitality has ended, but its life is not finished. It looks like roots that stood through decades of sunshine and storms, given the chance to take a new posture.
It looks like a new creature emerging from the brave act of letting the artist loose. It looks unrecognizable from the way we knew it, but connected to history and promise by its very substance.
Change is risky. In our community, our families, and our churches, we often fear what we may lose more than we celebrate what we might gain.
I heard a faith story earlier this week. Kevin Benefield spoke to his church family, a congregation dear to my heart. They are walking through some anxieties and reactions about what change will mean for them. On the Sunday they said goodbye to their Pastor, he told this story of being found and finding a way forward. It is a beautiful challenge to most of us who would prefer to mourn the missing tree rather than welcome the presence of the owl.
He so perfectly said, “We desperately need our traditionalists: we need your wisdom, your strength, your commitment. In short, we need your faith. In equal measure, we need our progressives: we need your vision, your motivation, your enthusiasm, and your energy. We need your spirit. One is the ballast, one is the sail. Each is indispensable if we are to press forward.”
Faith and spirit. That’s the combination that swirls around in the artist’s hands to create something new and delightful, something that draws people in by the dozens to look and wonder.
Transformation looks like a new creature made from an old tree. It is grace, shaping things we thought were long gone into something that sparks the imagination of little ones. It’s what we find when we tip toe through a park because we heard, “It used to be a tree, but now it’s something else.”
Now, it’s something else.
More from Erin Robinson Hall
The good news is it’s Friday. There is enough grace coming in the holy communion of Saturday’s waffles and the sacred mess of Sunday’s best efforts to cover anything I have missed.
Lord, may these moments ready us for a new week.
Deep waters, flames, and fears have come before. They will probably come again. But the narrative I want my child to have, and the narrative I hope to voice continually for myself and for my family is this: Fear doesn’t win. We are strong. And just in case we’re not brave enough, we will be brave for each other.