A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Greening Of The Mangrove

by Fr Phil Cody sm

by Fr Phil Cody sm

My Mother used to say the best part of holiday is looking forward to it! There is truth in that. The same might be said of my expectation of meeting up with the mangrove tree I had befriended while on retreat in Australia.1   When I arrived at the beach at the Mary MacKillop Centre called The Haven for my retreat this year, I wondered how the mangrove tree might be – had it survived the recent cyclone? Had it grown? What might it tell me this time?

I suppose having expectations is part of life and in a sense they keep us going. One part of marriage preparation I recall was an exercise in talking about ‘What realistic expectations I have for this relationship?’ It proved a good discussion and reflection. Likewise, while I had hopes of meeting the mangrove once again, and in a sense was holding my breath, it was important to be realistic and open to change, even the change that it had disappeared!

I don’t know about you, but I often sense life is a series of saying ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. One commentator said that could be a summary of the Bible, especially in the life of Jesus. I live in expectation of the next ‘hello’ and feel the sadness of the next ‘goodbye’. I suppose the challenge is to live in a way that is free of too much dependency on the next hello or sadness at the next goodbye.

My relationship with the mangrove is trying to teach me that. Yes, great delight in discovering each other again; sadness in farewells; but the challenge to keep in touch with the inner self the mangrove reminds me of ALL the time. If only! This is not easy and most of us ‘lose it’ quite often and have to take time out to get back to say ‘hello’ to the source of inner peace and focus!mangroveNewGrowth2

So, with some trepidation I went down the beach to greet the mangrove again. My first shock was to see much of the tall banks of the beach had been lowered by the stormy seas of the cyclone Queensland had experienced. I couldn’t see the mangrove yet. Maybe it too was washed away or cut down.

Then I caught sight of it in the sun –WOW! It had grown taller and was resplendent in healthy green growth. There was a message in this ‘greening of the mangrove’. It had survived two years of tides and storms and had come through alive and well. Mmmmm?

I still had to make my way carefully to it, to go slowly over the sharp volcanic rocks. Then the joy and touch after two years! A special ‘hello’ indeed. I felt a bit self-conscious embracing the leaves and planting a loving kiss into them, probably much to the mangrove’s surprise too! YEA! It was alive and really well. I am sure you have had such experiences, especially with some person you love? It is so important to say hello and say goodbye with meaning.

I think of the policeman in Napier who kissed his wife goodbye after lunch and later that day was shot! Also of some precious kisses I have witnessed between friends. A gentle, loving sign of deep affection and relationship. Then my sadness when I see some husbands and wives who meet or depart without any sign at all of their love. None of my business, probably, but I feel like calling out and saying ‘you never know if you will get another chance’. How grateful the wife of the policeman was to remember the kiss from her partner that turned out to be a last greeting.

Well, the first wave of joy I experienced in ‘catching up’ with the mangrove, changed soon enough to quiet thanks and holding. I was suddenly aware of the lapping of the waves around the rocks - ever so gentle - almost chattering, maybe reflecting, ‘there have been storms and tough times but here we are’.

I became aware of seaweed and other tangled debris wound around the mangrove branches and leaves and immediately reacted and want to ‘clear it up’ and ‘fix it’ (as men do!). Woops! Steady as she goes. I could do more damage just pulling the tangles out. It needs a quiet ‘unwinding’ -holding the good branch or leaves and slowly sorting apart what should not be there, making sure that the healthy leaves and smaller branches are not hurt.

I thought of a biography of Pope Francis entitled Pope Francis. Untying the Knots.   In the Foreword   it describes how the then Fr Jorge Mario Begoglio SJ had a special appreciation of a painting by Johann Schmidtner with the title ‘Mary, Untier of Knots’.   It shows Mary unraveling the entanglements in a ribbon she holds!   It echoes much of the ‘entanglement’ each of us faces in life and calls on Mary in her gentle, merciful way to help us unravel the hurts and muddles of our life too! So the mangrove was reinforcing that lesson for me – “be gentle with me; don’t rush; don’t ‘fix it’ but help me see and sort out what I need to”.

To be continued.

1  Readers may recall articles in the MM in May 2011 and February 2013.


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