tree of life

The nuns taught us there are two ways through life—
the way of nature...
and the way of grace.
You have to choose which one you’ll follow.
Grace doesn’t try to please itself.
Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked.
Accepts insults and injuries.
Nature only wants to please itself.
Get others to please it too.
Likes to lord it over them.
To have its own way.
It finds reasons to be unhappy...
when all the world is shining around it...
when love is smiling through all things.
They taught us that no one who loves the way of grace...
ever comes to a bad end.

—Spoken by a mother grieving the death of her son, from the film The Tree of Life, by Terrence Malick

To me, grace and nature are one in the same—no way to separate them. Nature’s universe encompasses all—the rocks, the rivers, the forests and deserts, birds, animals, fish, earthquakes, tsunamis, tempests, light, energy, the clouds, stars, planets, galaxies, black holes and supernovas. Nature does not discriminate between the healthy and the sick, the good and the bad, the wealthy and the poor, the devout and the secular.

In that way, I can accept my precious boy who, through nature, became less of what he could have been yet more of what he is—loving, incongnizant of much, living in the moment, wordless, wanting only of essentials, simple, pure, changing with the passing of time—some from the storms inside his brain—yet not changing at all. Like a tree whose limbs are beautifully twisted and gnarled by ages of drought, freezing temperatures and the wake of storms, covered in soft lichen as if jade lace stitched onto a taffeta gown—Calvin’s beauty is touching, timeless, makes me tremble.

And if I must one day send him first, if his time here will be only fleeting, I can feel at peace knowing he’s returned to that which he came from—the earth, the sky, the moon—and I’ll carry him around as I had once before, as if he is my heart's inner star and my soul's universe, and just as much as he is now, he’ll continue to grow inside me like a little tree of life.

photo by Michael Kolster


  1. Absolutely beautiful. And the movie was as well, I've watched it 3 times.

  2. So beautiful, Christy. I'm always working on the acceptance piece...

  3. beautiful writing, stunning photo, amazing kiddo ... an altogether awe-inspiring family. - aspen

  4. thank you aspen, with the name of a tree. you are so kind. love, christy

  5. Aw Christy, you made me smile big and bawl all before my breakfast. You are amazing and all three of you are so fortunate to have each other. Thank you so much for sharing your story, your soul

  6. Grace and nature ARE the same! You got it right. Your closing paragraph says it all, with Michael's photograph to cement the issue. Beauty incarnate!