Knotty lessons for life

The Kutztown Area Patriot - - OPINION - John Morgan John C. Morgan is a teacher and writer. He can be reached at dr­johnc­mor­gan@ya­hoo. com

Pine knot­ters unite! You have noth­ing to lose but your anx­i­eties, and ev­ery­thing to gain.

For those of you who cut wood, you know what a pine knot is be­cause you have a hard time saw­ing through it.

It is the tough­est part.

I’ve tried to saw through a pine knot and af­ter much curs­ing, gave up and cut around it.

Dead branches drop off healthy trees and wood knots ap­pear where they died.

Knots are the im­per­fec­tions that cause liv­ing wood grain to grow around them.

So why am I writ­ing about pine knots in wood?

Well, first be­cause I moved to this area from Northum­ber­land, a small Penn­syl­va­nia town on the banks of the Susque­hanna River, one en­vi­sioned as a refuge for those seek­ing free­dom to be­lieve and think as they wished.

Its most fa­mous early set­tler was Dr. Joseph Pri­est­ley, the “dis­cover of oxy­gen” (as if any­one could dis­cover some­thing we use all the time), con­sid­ered the par­ent of Amer­i­can chem­istry.

For his free think­ing, Pri­est­ley’s home in Eng­land had been burnt down by a mob.

It’s al­most a place where ev­ery year they cel­e­brate Pine­knot­ter Day with games and food in the cen­ter of an idyl­lic town, with a band shell and many trees lined the street.

Walk­ing there, I could well imag­ine run­ning into Dr. Pri­est­ley him­self, it was such a quaint place.

I find much in na­ture from which to learn.

Some­times the best teach­ers are those who ask us to stop, look, and lis­ten to the world around us, es­pe­cially the nat­u­ral world.

One can learn as much if not more from a river than a text­book. I have un­der­stood more from tend­ing a gar­den than at­tend­ing a class.

In­deed, the first words of many wis­dom teach­ers is: “Wake up!”

They ask us to wit­ness the mir­a­cle of life in and around us, to spend a mo­ment ac­knowl­edg­ing its beauty and brevity.

As one of my fa­vorite writ­ers, An­nie Dil­liard, has writ­ten: the uni­verse doesn’t like play­ing to an empty house (or mind).

We are here to bear wit­ness to all of it.

So, what have I learned from pine knots?

First, they are tough. And their tough­ness comes from their im­per­fec­tions. Strength comes from weak­ness, in other words.

And that is an im­por­tant les­son for liv­ing.

Rather than deny­ing our im­per­fec­tions, we should learn and grow from them.

Sec­ond, pine knots are dead wood be­fore be­ing re­newed.

They are lit­er­ally dead wood around which has grown liv­ing wood.

Out of death, comes new life. That’s an­other thought com­ing from many world wis­dom tra­di­tions.

Out of what ap­pears to be loss, comes new life.

Think of a time in your life when you thought you had lost some­thing or some­one and how dif­fi­cult that felt at the time.

Then, re­flect on what came out of that loss, a new be­gin­ning. I know I have learned more from any losses than gains.

There is a won­der­ful book by a Catholic priest and teacher, Henri J.W. Nouwen, called Wounded Healer.

In it, Nouwen sug­gests that it is out of wounds we are ca­pa­ble of heal­ing our­selves and oth­ers, be­cause the wounds, like pine knots in wood, are our teach­ers.

They teach us to learn our im­per­fec­tions to re­late to oth­ers be­cause no one is per­fect.

And they teach us to let go in or­der to live.

The next time you cut wood, re­mem­ber the no­ble pine knot, life out of death, strength out of weak­ness and im­per­fec­tion.

John C. Morgan Colum­nist

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.