Stand Alone

The old woman in the hotel breakfast area is holding court.

I have come down early for some quiet journal time, but she is a veritable black hole of conversation, pulling anyone who wanders near into her loud monologue about her life and opinions.

It’s annoying, but her loneliness is obvious. And more than a little sad.

Fittingly, I come across these words by Walt Whitman:

I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,
All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches,
Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous leaves of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself,
But I wonder’d how it could utter joyous leaves standing alone there
    without its friend near, for I knew I could not

I love that phrase, uttering joyous leaves. As I look back over the last week, I wonder how joyous my utterings have been. I know my mutterings have been anything but.

I spent this last week in a high-tech cave. The Orlando Convention Center’s main room stretches on for an impossible distance, watched from above by a giant spider of lights. I took this photo one morning before the 20,000 participants arrived. The event was a kind of corporate carnival, with each booth vying for the attention of passers-by with its own brand of technical wonders.

My job of capturing content in a fast schedule of talks kept me isolated at the edge of crowds, lost in translation. At times, the pace and the denseness of the content threatened to overwhelm me. Cue the mutterings.


Every time I pick up a marker, my goal is to feel that I’m not standing alone, but that God accompanies me. I want to work in concert with him, harmonizing with the Spirit – regardless of the content that I’m visualizing. But this was not a good week for that inner listening. All the other commotion drowned out that still, small voice.

That is the key to uttering joyous leaves, whether those leaves are drawings, reports, lessons, or whatever the byproducts of our work may be. We are never truly alone when we are aware of Jesus standing with us.

Father, forgive me for losing your voice in the commotion of the week. I never feel more alone than when I feel disconnected from you. When I get that busy, will you break in and remind me of your presence? I don’t want to spend a day, let alone a week, apart from you.

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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