For Christmas my mother gave me a necklace of three pine trees etched onto a little gold circle, and a pinecone charm on a gold chain with a card that read “Vive Gamache!”. Armand Gamache is the main character in the Three Pines book series by Louise Penny. Three Pines is a fictional town on the border of Quebec and Vermont that stands at the center of the novels. Its inhabitants are a flawed, loveable community of characters whom I consider friends.
Prior to receiving this beautiful gift, I had been wearing a longhorn charm necklace as a symbol of courage. Today I wear my three pines. Which is interesting because my guiding word just changed from “courage” to “community.” And even more interesting because I received the necklace before I received the word.
It’s also interesting that I made the mental connection between my new necklace and my word on the feast of Epiphany. Some suggest a spiritual symbolism to the gifts of the magi: gold for Jesus’ kingship; frankincense for his divinity; and myrrh, an anointing oil, foreshadowing his death. This interpretation can be found in the carol “We Three Kings.”
Such is the way of things. Little gifts illuminating the path ahead.
One of my prayers of late is: God, show me what you would have me do and make it clear and obvious. Grant me the wisdom to see it, the serenity to accept it, and the courage to carry it out. When I shared this with a friend she jokingly and lovingly said, “That’s all?! Pretty big prayer.”
Yes, it is. And for some dashed reason, because of the clear and obvious part, I still expect the guidance bit to show up as directions written out on a whiteboard. This has yet to be the case. I try to keep the prayer open, but in truth I’m praying this over some very specific areas of my life.
I continue to wait and watch, to be still and to pay attention to the non-whiteboard ways God speaks to me. Such as the necklace that so conveniently symbolizes the energy of community and whatever that word is asking of me. Such as the sharing of an acquaintance that knocked me out of my self-centeredness and into the reality that once again I overloaded an action with the expectation of a hoped for result. Such as the appearance of a lady bug – symbol of good things coming to fruition – in my house hours before getting the news that my divorce was final, and again just before receiving a long-awaited e-mail scheduling a job interview.
In the acknowledgments of her latest book Louise Penny writes:
Some might argue that Three Pines itself isn’t real, and they’d be right, but limited in their view. The village does not exist, physically. But I think of it as existing in ways that are far more important and powerful. Three Pines is a state of mind. When we choose tolerance over hate. Kindness over cruelty. Goodness over bullying. When we choose to be hopeful, not cynical. Then we live in Three Pines. I don’t always make those choices, but . . . . I know where I want to be, and I know how to get there.
Some might argue that the ways I see and hear God speaking to me through friends, animals, nature, books, dreams, music, and synchronicities are not real. Perhaps they’re right. Perhaps God is not real. But if not, what else is there
I know where I want to go. I don’t know where God wants me to go. Not in any long-term, task oriented sense. What I do know is who I want to be and who God wants me to be along the way. What I do know is how to pay attention to the little gifts God leaves on the path.
So thank you, Mom, God, Louise Penny. Thank you for the gift of Three Pines.
If you feel so inclined, I’d like to hear about the gifts that help illuminate your path. Post your experience in the comments section below.