The miracle that wasn’t!


The picture above is a copper beach tree. The ladder and the Door have been carved into it, the face at the top however hasn’t.

In the 90’s I worked at a conference centre run by the Church. The building was surrounded by some beautiful scenery and 14 acres of managed land. At the front of the building there was a copper beach tree that had stood there for hundreds of years. Unfortunately in the early 1990’s there was a spate of really bad storms and the tree lost one of its main branches, leaving it as an unbalanced health hazard. To make it safe the adjacent branch had to be lopped off as well. This meant that this once beautiful tree was now a shadow of its former self. A lowly stump in the middle of the lower terrace.

A decision was made to turn this stump into a tribute to the tree’s former glory, a tribute if you will. A professional artist was called in and commissioned to turn it into a “living sculpture”. A ladder was carved up the length of the trunk, and at it’s zenith was an open door, inviting the viewer to look through the tree to the other side. A stone was placed at the bottom of the tree and if you looked carefully you could see an indentation, as if the stone was a pillow and someone had been sleeping on it. The sculpture was a homage to “Jacobs Ladder”, the biblical story from Genesis 28: 10-19.

A couple of years later I decided to take this picture, it was late July and the sun was setting behind me, and I had not seen the face, I merely wanted to take a picture of the sculpture. It was only a few weeks later, when the photo came back from the postal developers that the face became apparent.

Of course it’s almost certainly a case of¬†pareidolia, the human ability for people to see faces almost everywhere- the location of the twigs and the angle of the sun meant the shadows fell in just the right place, However I often take great joy in showing people the picture where a spiritual entity “photo-bombed” me!

Some people working at the centre suggested it could be the face of Christ. Although as nobody can seem to decide what Christ looked like and photography wasn’t around in his time I feel that conclusion is a significant stretch of the imagination. However that suggestion did lead me to think how easily it would have been to turn the whole thing, quite innocently into a marketing campaign for the centre! Is it possible that this is exactly what happened in places of modern religious significance? Places where people flock to in droves, even lead pilgrimages there? Just a thought!

Whatever the case, I found myself dropping by this conference centre a few weeks ago and am sad to say that the tree has died and been removed from the grounds completely. Well- I suppose you don’t cut a hole through the middle of something & expect it to live!

Part of me wonders if it would have been better preserved if it had been declared a miracle!

We’ll never know!


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