The Mercy Tree Project
The Mercy Tree is an embodiment of the illuminated interconnectivity, The Greater Mercy, that holds us.
Model Description. Below is an image of the 11 inch high model of The Mercy Tree. The model above is made of flexible large gage wire. Small gage wire threads together the paper die cut leaf and heart shapes. Painted foam clay covers the rock base that rests upon a cedar plank. This model highlights a basic structure for the the final interactive sculpture that will stand 11 feet high and include a 3 mile mediation trail that leads to and from the tree.
Final Project Components. The life-size version of the project begins with a meditation path with stations with suggested rituals for pilgrims who may pause for prayer, meditation, inquiry, journaling/artwork or experiential exercise.
The life-size tree structure will be constructed of iron or steel in a similar fashion to the model, leaving spaces in the trunk and branches. These spaces and metal clips allow pilgrims to insert or attach their offering of letters, poems, or artwork. Eco-friendly pens with vegetable-dye ink and compostable paper embedded with wildflower seeds will be available at the entrance of the path and at the tree itself. The pilgrim contemplatively walks the path arriving at the tree where she can then attach or insert her offering, pausing for any additional meditation. When she is complete, she follows the narrower path beyond the tree. This narrow path, with additional stations of reflection and inquiry exercises, gradually widens and merges with the main trail ending the journey.
Many of the paper offerings surrendered to the tree compost and return to the earth naturally. For offerings that do not fully decompose, community members attend to the The Mercy Tree project each October 31-November 2. Project attendants prepare the ground, collect the seeded paper offerings, and burying them along the path and surrounding area. In March and April, those wildflower seeds will bloom.
The human heart is not meant to bear the burdens of any of the emotions. We are not meant to contain our joy or excitement, but allow it to flow, embracing others in its bliss and enlivening their passion. Carrying our anguish, shame, and anger creates a weight that becomes uncomfortably familiar bringing difficulty to our relationships and lives, and chronic pain and disease to our bodies. The Mercy Tree project offers an experiential process, grounded in presence, mercy, compassion, and accompaniment, to honor our emotional states, the powerful information they provide, and our connection to The Greater Mercy.
Sustainability. It is the vision for The Mercy Tree project to become a community ritual, a place of communion and care for each other and the earth. A metal box at the trail head will be available for monetary offerings to support maintenance and supplies. Additionally, stations are constructed and maintained by various members or organizations in the community. For example, Eagle Scout projects or Master Gardner groups may help develop the trail or create information signs informing pilgrims about emotional intelligence, local ecology, and our critical connection to nature. The Greater Mercy Foundation, a local non-profit for which I am a founding member, will coordinate this project. The Mercy Tree project, like all the projects of The Foundation, are possible through key partnerships within the community including but not limited to Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, 7th Generation Labs, Wimberley Valley Art League, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Hays County Master Naturalists.
Intention and Outcomes. The Mercy Tree makes visible the story that holds us all. Seeing those in pain or joy who came before us, now embodied as wildflowers or paper leaves on the tree, we connect to the larger story of humanity and nature itself. We might also hear and discern the destructive whispers of our “inner-critic” who blames others, becomes victim, or fears emotion preventing transformation. With nature as the ultimate silent witness to all who came before, after, and with us on this path, we are simultaneously accompanied and accompanying each other in our bliss and sorrow, anger and curiosity, and fear and shame.