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Kim Bottomly is Wellesley's 13th president

2009 Commencement Invocation and Benediction
by Victor Kazanjian
Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life

Invocation – Waiting in the forest of the present

Come into the forest and sit a while

under the shade of these mighty oaks,

beneath this natural canopy

under which a century of Wellesley women

have passed, and been changed in the passing.

Come into the forest and find shelter

on this day of your departure.

Let loose for a time the journey that has been.

Allow for awhile that which awaits to remain expected.

Come into the forest

and just be here…

For it is here in nature’s cathedral

that a transformation is underway…

here that a metamorphosis is unfolding,

here, within our gaze,

student becomes graduate,

no cocoon able to contain her any longer.

She will soon be set free;

free from the shelter of this place,

free to roam,

and alight wherever she will,

for a time or a lifetime.

But now there she sits,

verdant-clad,

object of our pride and affection,

waiting here in the forest,

in the fullness of this moment,

in the fullness of her being,

waiting,

waiting,

for release.

And now,

it is time

for us

to let you go.


Benediction – Broken Trees II

There is a tree in our backyard

whose limbs were felled by some mighty wind.

Once tall and proud,

it now stands tenuously,

essential parts rips from its body,

branches lying in a heap

having given in to the forces of nature

that pushed parts of its once beautiful form

down upon the earth.

I have wondered from time to time

why I have not gone out, saw in hand,

to clean up the mess the storm left behind,

to erase the sad image of this no longer powerful tree;

thereby restoring the beauty of the landscape within my view.

But just between you and me,

I have to admit

that there is something about this tree

in its brokenness

that captures me…

Something about the forest in its reality,

broken trees and all,

that resonates within me;

that is me,

not picture perfect

as I sometimes yearn to be,

but rather

scarred and wounded,

as forest, as person,

alive and broken at the same time.

You see the forest is me,

and you,

as we walk and wander this earth

in our incarnate form,

broken and yet alive,

imperfect and yet whole.

It is perfection that is the illusion;

and thereby perhaps not the best standard

upon which to judge oneself or another.

Whether in arbor or human form,

it is the scars that tell the story of our lives;

each wound its own tale of struggle and redemption

each blemish a testament to a life fully lived.

And so my sisters,

as you now scatter with the winds,

those gentle and warm

and those fierce and forbidding,

I wish you, on this day of your commencement

and in your life yet to be lived,

not perfection,

no, not perfection.

But rather

the beauty of your imperfection,

the truth of your humanity,

the reality of all the scrapes and scars and wounds

that have been and will be,

for you and yours.

And so as you go now

out into a deeper and wider part of the forest,

find the path that calls to you,

and pause from time to time when you come upon

that wounded or broken tree

and listen to her.

Listen to the reminder that she whispers

of the splendor and beauty

of the imperfection of creation and of your humanity,

and also of the resiliency of all living things.

Go now.

The forest awaits.

And you are free.


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