What Does Robust Mean, Anyway?

Today’s inspiration invited me to ponder the deeper meaning of the word robust. I am using Alan Rickman’s delightful quote as the foundation of my adventure this year: “If only life could be a little more tender, and art a little more robust.” As I completed reorganizing my bedroom closet, and sorted through piles of stuff, my mind was free to consider the word Alan so purposefully used. The journey I was guided on was amazing and soulful. 

What does robust mean, anyway?
I looked up robust before the end of last year. The word means “strong, healthy, vigorous”. I am always fascinated by the origin of words. Robust comes from the Latin word robur, literally meaning oak strength. 

This morning I asked, as I do every morning, “What adventure should we have today?”, which is a fancy way of asking, “How shall we play today?” This is what a response, an invitation from the Divine, looks like in my life. It starts with a nudge, an energetic tap on the shoulder, that gets my attention. 

It began with memories from Facebook. Three years ago on this date, during my Year of Firsts, I took a winter walk in Wildcat Park. I encountered Oak Tree for the first time, a big old tree near one of the walking trails. Touching the oak that afternoon, I felt the vibration of energy humming beneath my hands. I look for Oak Tree every time I walk at Wildcat Park, and I always stop to rest a hand on the rough bark. 

As I worked in my bedroom this afternoon, I had a DVD playing, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. There is an ancient tree featured in a couple of scenes. It is a whomping willow tree, not an oak, but seeing that tree, after reading my post earlier about Oak Tree, drew my attention to the word robust, and its root word meaning oak strength. Now I was curious. And curiosity inspired me to follow its lead to discover something deeper. 

Oak Tree in Wildcat Park in the spring. 

I looked up the symbolism around the mighty oak tree, as I thought about art being more robust, more oak strong. This hardwood, which can live for hundreds of years, is considered the King of Trees. Attributes associated with the oak include honor, wisdom, endurance, stability and strength. Those are good characteristics to connect with art…and with my life. The Celtic word druid is derived from their word for oak, duir, which interestingly literally means door. To the Celtic people, passing through an oak door is to spiritually access soul thoughts. 

This is where I said, Wait a minute… and began to access my own soul thoughts. 

In 2014, my Year of Firsts, I encountered Oak Tree and we became friends. The next year, my Year of Journeys, my symbol was an open door, and my secondary symbol became the acorn, the oak tree’s seed. I associated the acorn with remembrance, and potential, and I purchased a silver acorn pendant and a silver and copper acorn ring. 

Last year my journey continued with a Year of Surrender. My symbol was the river, representing the flow of life. I learned to trust at a deep level, recognizing that I am not in control of anything, except how I choose to respond to where the flow takes me and the opportunities that appear. I realized that the Divine calls to me as the Dream Giver, just around the river bend. I can choose to follow that guidance, or resist the invitations to grow and expand my heart and soul.  

2017 is my Year of Inspiration. Inspiration…literally meaning Divine guidance. As I considered the acorn, and how that seed contains all the potential for a mighty, strong tree, my heartbeat quickened. Ahhhhh. This. This is where inspiration was leading me. I suddenly saw the connections between my own journey the last three years, and where I am now. The linking of the symbols of the oak tree, the door, the acorn, surrender – which is a type of dying to self, exactly what a seed does so new growth emerges, inspiration and the word robust…from Alan’s quote…gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes. 

How could I ever doubt that my journey is being divinely guided? My trust deepened even further today, with such inspired revelation…going deep like the roots of an oak tree.

I briefly questioned whether my symbol for this year should be the oak tree. That would make sense. But the answer that came was no. No, this was a lesson today for me about my journey…a lesson that began three years ago when I desired to move beyond my comfort zone. 

And the journey continues. 

This year, I am learning about making life a little more tender, and art a little more robust. I am becoming more robust as well. I am oak strong. 

Journey 15: A Tiny Treasure

tiny treasure acorn

A week ago today, my cousin Mindy left us, following a different path on her journey. It’s been a busy week, interspersed with sadness and joy, celebrations and reflections. She’s never been far from my thoughts. I’ve been able to spend time with Mindy’s son Harry this week as well, watching this bright, soulful young man literally grow up overnight as he has assumed responsibilities most 19 years never imagine.

I spent time in Neosho today, staying at the house while Harry was at school. These early anniversaries of loss are tough. Every Thursday, for a while, Harry will remember. I will remember. Mindy’s friends will remember. It’s part of the grieving process. Then the 8th of each month will bring a fresh wave of sadness and memory, and finally, each year January 8 will be a day of sorrow, mixed with more and more fond memories as time marches on.

Today, the loss is still fresh. The house was quiet and yet Mindy’s presence was strong and signs of her life were everywhere….the wool hooked rugs that she crafted so beautifully, her coat flung casually over a chair, a box of tea in the kitchen. Mindy’s pugs, which were her fur babies, watched me with big eyes.  Mindy loved these little dogs, calling one Bella and the other Rudy.

tiny treasure bella and rudy

It was a beautiful day, cool but with brilliant sunshine and just the tiniest promise of spring. Gathering leashes, I took Bella and Rudy for a long walk, savoring the warmth and the bright light that slanted through the trees in the park near Harry’s house. I let the dogs set the pace, so we ambled, stopping frequently, and that was fine with me. It fit perfectly my somber, reflective mood. In my heart, I talked to Mindy, telling her how proud I was of Harry. The dogs snuffled around the base of a large tree and as I stepped forward, something crunched beneath my feet. Looking down, I saw the ground covered in acorns. I was beneath an old oak tree and acorns and their tiny “caps” were scattered in a wide circle around the tree. My heart beat a little faster and I searched among the dried leaves for a perfect acorn to pick up.

The dogs came over to see what I had found as I at last spied what I was seeking. Smiling, I held the small brown nut in my hand. There is a deeply moving scene, in the final Hobbit movie, that made me smile even as tears filled my eyes. Thorin sees Bilbo holding an object in his hand and demands to see it. Bilbo opens his fist to reveal a small acorn. He picked it up in Beorn’s garden, he tells Thorin. He intends to plant it when he gets back to the Shire. Bilbo says he will care for the tree that grows and every time he sees the oak tree he will remember his journey, all of it, the good and the not so good. Thorin says it is a poor reward for his adventure but to Bilbo, it is a precious treasure and one he has carried and cherished for a long time.

That scene flashed through my mind as I cupped my own small acorn in my palm. What a significant find today. I will cherish this treasure as a reminder of my journey this year…all of it…the good and the not so good. I won’t plant the seed, as Bilbo did, however every time I see this acorn, I will remember, and smile. Bilbo’s treasure grew into a mighty oak tree that later in the story, became known as the Party Tree. Bilbo hosted his birthday party each year beneath that tree and memory and celebration become entwined.

And so it shall be for me. The memory associated with this small acorn, with the passage of time, will sprout into a mighty framework beneath which, I will celebrate… this year, this journey, Mindy. On January 8, of each future year, I will hold my treasure, and remember and rejoice. The pugs gave me quizzical looks. However, I felt Mindy’s approval, and the light around me shifted and brightened and the warmth was surely from a source beyond the sun. With quiet joy, and an acorn in my pocket, we headed home.

tiny treasure memory