Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016
TreesPosted Friday, October 12, 2012, at 4:56 PM
She slipped out the back door of the house. Tears poured down her cheeks. Her best friend had died. They had found him just that morning--on the side of the road near their home. She had always poured out her heart to him. He was her best friend, companion, and keeper of all her secrets.
As she cried for her dog, she climbed the branches to her favorite quiet place--the tree behind the house. Once she settled in to the familiar branches she let all her grief pour out of her like a rushing stream. This had always been her thinking place.
Exhausted from her tears, she leaned against the solid trunk and stretched her legs out along the arm of the limb upon which she sat. It was Fall and there were only a few leaves left. As she gazed from her perch, she could see around the neighborhood. People were raking leaves into huge piles, children laughing as they leaped into the piles, and then raking them up again. Some were harvesting the last of their gardens. Others were playing games, swinging, working on cars, or other tasks as they passed the quiet day.
She saw her dad coming from the shed, loading shovels into the truck. He stopped beneath her tree, never looked up, and quietly said, "Baby, I'm going to bury Ditto on the farm. Come help me find a quiet place for his grave." He moved on. She threw her arms around her tree, drew in a deep breath, and slowly made her way down--stronger and stilled from her time there, she went to say goodbye to her friend.
They moved the next summer. She could not imagine her life without her tree. She had nestled in its arms to think . . . to read . . . to dream. She only hoped there would be another tree in which she could find refuge . . . and solace.
The new house was surrounded by woods. The trees insulated them from the rest of the world. She and her father cleared the underbrush and removed saplings until they could mow around the trees and walk through the woods.
There were two trees that seemed to call to her. She loved them both. One was huge. Two people stretching their arms around its trunk could barely touch hands. It had a long straight branch about head high that was thick and strong. She could climb the trunk and sit on it, swinging her feet or even lay down on its branch and stretch out full--free of care as its rough bark caressed her face. Eventually, she and her father hung a swing from the branch and she spent hour after hour sitting in her tree or the swing thinking--contemplating life.
Her other tree was completely different. It was much smaller. She loved its smell. She could slightly scratch the bark and smell the sweet fragrance of the sassafras. The leaves would turn to a brilliant reddish orange in the Fall giving it such life before it settled in for its winter nap. From its roots they made a tea that was warm and comforting.
They had dubbed it the picture tree. For birthdays, anniversaries, or any time the family would gather around it for pictures. She often sat in the Y-branch to "mug" for the camera or it made a perfect frame for two people in a tight embrace. It was the family's tree and softened the hard edges of their home with its gentle, graceful curves and vibrant leaves.
The trees behind their home were a tangle of dogwood and redbud in the Spring time. Tiny leaves in myriad shades of green peaked out as the white dogwood dazzled the eye. As the leaves filled out they would cloak their home from the rest of the world--surround them with quiet, peace, birdsong, and the antics of squirrels.
A storm came through and took many limbs from their trees. The sassafras was injured, but they hoped it would survive. It became clear that in order to save the tree, damaged limbs had to be removed--including their picture one. It saddened them, but to save the tree, it had to be pruned.
Her father saved the limb. Taking it to his wood-working shop where they made it into picture frames--one even with the bark still on. Now, it encircled and protected the precious memories--especially those under and in its loving arms. The tree continued to embrace their lives.
God created trees for our use and our pleasure. God created trees for us to treasure. We so often overlook the tree. Concerned instead with what it what it will give me. When we should be more like the tree--generous, giving, willing to bend, willing to change, knowing our life does not end. Our form may change, but we know that God's purpose is forever.
God, our creator and sustainer, help us to learn from and care for your creation the tree. Help us to be strong and proud in the form you have given us. Help us to bear fruit to feed the hungry, to shelter the weak, to be willing to be pruned, and as our form changes and takes new shapes to follow willingly. May we shed our old habits; letting new life bud and fill us as you teach us to change and grow. May our roots find nourishment in you--for you are truly our source and strength. Thank you God, for the lessons we learn from your trees. So be it. Amen.
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Rayla Stewart Hogue is a native of Dexter. She is a wife, mother, and minister of the UCC (United Church of Christ). She seeks to recognize and embrace the unending hues of God's ethne and religion, and commits herself to living and expressing this inclusive diversity through Sacrament and the spoken, written, and sung Word of God.