JUST behind Kettlewell in the splendour of Upper Wharfedale, a path meanders up Dowber Gill Beck in the shadow of Great Whernside towards Providence Pot.

Not far from the head of the gill and just before Providence Pot, a tree stands in the middle of the path, not quite barring the way, but certainly giving options.

I like to think of it as the tree of wisdom stumbled across on life’s way.

There’s no need to stop. The path continues either side. The route continues towards the destination, there’s no heavy branched demand, no legal obligation. Wisdom just grows freely, mysteriously, in our midst.

However, it might cause us to pause and ponder, is it better to go left or right? There’s trampled ground either side. The pause may be no more than a flickering thought, not enough to stop us walking, but a glimmer along the way.

On a sunny day, it is a perfect place to stop, to rest and have a picnic under its shady branches; or when it’s pouring, a moment of relief from relentless rain. Either way, shelter is offered and noticed. We are not so self-sufficient; help is needed and it is there to be found and it feels good.

On another more reflective outing, ‘Why has the tree grown up here? Did it grow before the path? Or has it managed despite all the footfall, to establish itself, growing healthy and strong? Some philosophical musings about beginnings and life and why we might be concerned about such questions at all begin to shape the journey.

And then one day, to stop and take a step back. To cross the beck and quietly stare and wonder at the beauty of this simple tree. That it is there at all, so magnificent in its creation; to know that there is something growing, when there might be nothing at all. Created, creative, of God. And that is enough: enough to value and treasure all that is and that will be, the creation and one another, whoever we are.

James Theodosius

Priest in Charge, The Upper Wharfedale Benefice