Striking Contrast

By Paul Knudtson


As I sit on this park bench in the morning sun on these last days of August,

I notice a striking contrast between the stark stillness of nature before me and the commotion of human activity just beyond.

The trees in their yellow-green dress of early fall, stand so quiet and still;

as if they dare not make a sound,

not even a whisper.

They do not move a leaf.

It is as if I am looking at a photograph in which nothing moves . . . all is still.


It seems as though these trees are deliberately, intentionally still,

determined to be silent observers

of the arrival of this new day.

They do not move a muscle;

they do not make a noise.



Like a mother saying, “shh,” to her children,

holding her finger to her lips to silence children,

so these trees say, “shh,” to me;

they bid me sit quietly on my bench and pay close attention   .

These trees do not seem lifeless, inanimate objects;

I feel their presence as I sit here with them standing about me,

as if they possess some awareness

of what is happening in this world.


But human noisiness contrasts with this palpable peacefulness.

From the North-west, across the river somewhere,

I hear the noise of a diesel caterpillar tractor,

the loud squeaking and clicking of its steel tracks

and snort of its engine as it pushes earth with its shiny

steel blade.

To the East I hear the steady hum of highway traffic,

trucks and cars as they come down the long hill

and cross the bridge across the Bow River.

Above there is the drone of a single-engine airplane,

flying across the morning sky.

A few minutes ago,

a group of women walked hurriedly on the gravel path behind me,

busy in animated and noisy conversation.

They seemed oblivious — I thought —

to these trees and their remarkable silence.

Sitting on Bench

What a contrast . . .

. . . between the still and silent trees,

standing here in the warmth of the morning sun

beside the river that flows gently and quietly along,

. . . and the commotion of human activity.

For these few brief moments,

I have been hospitably welcomed to sit here

among these silent observers,

as if sitting in the company of wise, but silent elders.


These trees invite me to sit among them for a few moments.

Perhaps I can learn from them

about being still,

about being quiet,

about resting,

about being patient,

about simply absorbing the rays of the sun

and allowing the slow, gradual growth and change

that comes through the cycle of the years.

Such trees are not in a hurry,

but live slowly, day-by-day, hour-by-hour,

staying put,

growing and changing only gradually,


but unmistakeably.

There is a contrast.

Still versus busy.

Quiet versus noisy.

Thank you for allowing me to sit here with you for a few moments this morning,

and to learn a little about another way to live,

one that contrasts with the way of humans.


Help me to be still.

Help me to be quiet.

Help me to abide in the sunshine,

and so to become like these trees.

“They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield

their fruit in its season.” (Psalm 1:3)


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Paul was a preacher and teacher until he retired in 2015. He continues to write and listen to what God is saying to him in the ordinary and extraordinary things of life. Elaine was a public school teacher and administrator until she retired in 2018. She is using her retirement to reflect on God's work in her life and to share insights with her family and friends.

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