eNewsletter Feature Story – Week of March 21 – March 27, 2021

This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Julie Ruchniewicz,
FPCE Parish Nurse.

Dear friends,

As we move in to the slow and arduous path toward some semblance of normalcy, I personally have been almost desperately searching for details that speak to me. It might be the vision of an essential worker’s face etched with mask marks. It might be a story of courage from the trenches of the sick and suffering. It might even just be a quote or image.

Kahlil Gibran is a Lebanese-American poet, who created for himself a name and place in the history of art and literature, in spite of living in adverse circumstances and many hardships.

He tells us, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” This is a quote that ironically held true in his own life and could definitely be applied to this past year of so much hurt. 2020 has brought suffering and scarring, but how strong we have become!

During my reading–I seem to be doing a lot of that lately–I found a story that really moved me. In 2011 the tallest tree in Wales had been storm damaged, it was a devastating loss for the region as this tree had stood taller than a 20-story building with a height of around 209 feet. Instead of cutting it down the Natural Resources of Wales decided to commission an artist to carve it.

Simon O’Rourke is an environmental artist from North Wales who specializes in wood sculpture. He heard about this, researched, found the right people to talk to, and submitted a design. Simon found out that the area that surrounded the tree was known as the Giants of Vyrnwy. Inspired by that knowledge, he decided on a colossal, 50-foot hand, symbolizing the giants and the tree’s last attempt to reach for the sky. He was very excited at the prospect of working with this massive tree and memorializing a well-known landmark.

O’Rourke’s design was chosen and he immediately got to work planning. The ground was so treacherous that it took two days to erect scaffolding for him to stand on as he carved. Simon labored intensely for six days, using chainsaws and grinders. When he was done, he coated the entire sculpture in Tung Oil to protect it from the waterways close by.

The base of the sculpture is a tree with rough bark, but as you move your eyes upward, it transforms into the smooth skin of the arm and ends with the soft creases found in our palms and fingers. The result is this incredibly detailed carving of a giant hand reaching for the sky, that is both awesome and eerily realistic. The sculpture lies near Lake Vyrnwy, a reservoir in Powys, Wales, where everyone can enjoy it. Thousands of visitors have found this work majestic, but are equally as intrigued by the story behind it. Simon O’Rourke says, “I loved working on the hand sculpture, it reminded me just how small we are compared to some of the living organisms on this planet. All in all, a humbling experience.”

I am not sure why this story resonated with me (I’m not sure if it will for you). However, I am sure that the image of the imperfect hand, extended skyward, carved in this tree, conveys a sense of wounded courage. For me, this image expresses the letting go of anxious, all-consuming agony. We are ready to welcome in the future with appreciated, anticipated awe. There is the rough, ugly and damaged bark that is this last year, but it makes room for the beauty, strength and hope of the outstretched hand that is awaiting us.

I hold you and all you love and care for in my prayers.

Julie Ruchniewicz
FPCE Parish Nurse

Our Sunday message this week will be brought by Rev. Ray Hylton, FPCE’s senior pastor. Please join us online at https://live.firstprevanston.org at 10 a.m. this Sunday!

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