The Black Tree

One of my favorite places in the world is Turkey Mountain. The name is a bit of a misnomer; it’s more of a hill than a mountain, and I haven’t seen a single wild turkey in nine years of visiting the urban wilderness area. Nonetheless, Turkey Mountain is a precious jewel because it is one of the few undeveloped spaces within the Tulsa-metro area accessible to the public. Located just a few minutes from downtown by car, it is a sanctuary for those looking to escape the bustle of the city for a while. You could spend a lifetime exploring Turkey Mountain; in an area just over one square mile, there are over twenty miles of trails. 

Somewhere on the mountain there is a secret trail only known by a few adventurous souls. The trailhead is not obvious, and far from any parking lot. I seek out this trail when the others are congested (as has become increasingly the case in the last few years).

Somewhere along the trail there is a very curious tree that is nearly impossible to miss. It stands out in contrast to the monotonous brown of winter and lush green of mid-summer. It looks dead, but some of the upper branches still produce leaves. The bark is blackened, likely from a fire ages ago.

 

A subject of a Lovecraftian novella, or a glimpse into the Divine?

I’ve come to love this tree. It interrupts my experience. Every time I visit the trail, I feel compelled to stop, walk around it, touch scorched bark, and take in the strangeness of this living being.

The experience is both unsettling and fascinating; a kind of encounter with the sacred. God, the unfathomable mystery, glimpsed in mystery of this tree. I am humbled and reminded to be more attentive to my surroundings. God is the enigma that appears on the trail of life when you think things in your little world make sense.

Have you had a sacred encounter in an unexpected place? If so, share in the comments!

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