PC: https://www.treesforcities.org/stories/intreeducing-the-beech

Letter from a Holey Tree

“Comfort, comfort my people,”
    says your God.
“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone
    and her sins are pardoned.
Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over
    for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1-2, NLT)

I will bring comfort to your children. They frolic on the land about me and rest in my cavern. I will hold them tenderly as they nap out of reach from the summer sun, now forgiven by your mercy.

A voice said, “Shout!”
    I asked, “What should I shout?”

“Shout that people are like the grass.
    Their beauty fades as quickly
    as the flowers in a field.
The grass withers and the flowers fade
    beneath the breath of the Lord.
    And so it is with people.
The grass withers and the flowers fade,
    but the word of our God stands forever.” (6-8)

I witness the grass fading at my feet, and I know this personally as well, for I am a beech tree with a hole. I am fading, even as I witness some elderly members no longer able enter the white walls across the meadow. Even still, the Word of the Lord continues to be spoken within the building, in the yard, and in the neighborhood all around me. It will stand forever.

Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power.
    He will rule with a powerful arm.
    See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
    He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.
    He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. (10-11)

I will hold the lambs in my cavern as we wait for you, O Great Shepherd. I am not a pastor, but I can nurture and hold these children close to my heart, speaking your love over them as we wait for your reward. I can feed them with my leaves and cradle them in my hollowed cave. 

To whom can you compare God?
    What image can you find to resemble him?
Can he be compared to an idol formed in a mold,
    overlaid with gold, and decorated with silver chains?
Or if people are too poor for that,
    they might at least choose wood that won’t decay
and a skilled craftsman
    to carve an image that won’t fall down! (18-20)

As the Psalmist declares, none can compare to you, O God. As one made of wood, I know that even this material decays. It is no creator to be worshipped but merely a vessel to share your glory with the rest of creation.

Look up into the heavens.
    Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
    calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
    not a single one is missing.
O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
    O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
Have you never heard?
    Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint. (26-31)

I see your stars every night, glorious and reliable, prophetic and majestic. They are merely my fellow vessels in your service, yet they are dear and known by you. If you know them, the many I can see and the countless I can’t, surely you know your people too. You made them in your own Image!

I am fond of them, so when your people are weak, I will become a sanctuary like the building next door. Use me to restore them in body and spirit.

A truly tiny "little white church" -- not mine, but a sanctuary for a small congregation across the country. PC: https://visitrainier.com/elbe-little-white-church/

A truly tiny “little white church” — not mine, but a sanctuary for a small congregation across the country. PC: https://visitrainier.com/elbe-little-white-church/

Cover photo from https://www.treesforcities.org/stories/intreeducing-the-beech.

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The Cherry Blossom

The cherry blossom tree sat behind my K-12 school. For two weeks in May, she would bloom light pink and then shed her pretty petals on the sidewalk by the back door.

As a girl, I thought I wanted to get married under rows of cherry blossoms. I then realized that their blooming time is so brief that if I misjudged it, I’d be walking under a flowerless tree, atop the molding remains of its beauty. Thus, I decided that getting married under them might not be the best idea, but I still found them lovely.

The cherry blossom tree behind my school had a soft beauty. She was a pillar of the kindergarten playground, always growing in the corner and greeting parents as they went to pick up their children. She delighted students like me when her buds finally matured just before the school year let out.

Her siblings around the U.S. continue to bring pleasure to the humans that pass by them. They bring moments of inner calm and reflection as their viewers take pause to notice the trees’ beauty. Every spring, I waited for her to reveal her flowery gown.

Though cherry blossoms appear dead before they bud and look average as they blend in after their peak, they show the importance of patience. Though most of the year they go unnoticed, their petals are worth the seasons of waiting.

She was the first cherry blossom to bless me with the delight of her petals, and in this way, she opened my eyes to the beauty around me, helped me revel in the present, and learn the value of patience.

 

Cover photo from http://www.ctvisit.com/articles/bloom-finder.

Stock photo of the Charter Oak

The White Oak

Hello dear readers, thanks for taking the time to relax to a story of a particularly great tree. Today we’ll be hearing from a white oak, the official tree of Connecticut. Before he shares his family’s story, I just wanted to thank you for caring enough about the trees to come here.

If you’ve been following American news, you’ve likely heard of the destruction of Joshua Trees at Joshua Tree National Park. The US government has been partially shut down for weeks now as Trump demands funding for the border wall and the Dems continue to resist for economic and humanitarian reasons.

Because 800,000 people are out of work due to the shutdown, the parks are open free (yay for free access to these preserved lands) but also un- or understaffed and thus open to destruction (boo for people abusing them). Trees that take scores of years to mature and centuries to develop, trees that were historic and protected by the nation itself, have been cut, and for what?

So thank you for taking the time to honor trees here.

Today I stumbled across this ad for a BBC show on actress Judi Dench, who apparently has a passion for trees as well. It’s beautiful, her acres of cultivated and forested land and her love and interest in the trees’ stories. In the preview, she mentions an oak in particular.

Oaks are some of my favorite trees because of their sturdiness and because I grew up around so many; you can’t find them in every part of the US! The white oak we’ll hear from today is an especially dignified fellow with a legacy that he stakes his pride in. He also has an appreciation for the diversity of forest around him.

I hope his words will encourage you today! Enjoy!

White Oaks are common all across the eastern US, and http://forestry.ohiodnr.gov/whiteoak, where this photo is from, describes them well.

White Oaks are common all across the eastern US, and http://forestry.ohiodnr.gov/whiteoak, where this photo is from, describes them well.

 

Greetings, young one. I heard you call me stubborn as you walked by earlier, noticing my brown leaves still sticking although it is March.

While I prefer to be called regal as a descendant of the historic white oak that saved this state when it was still a colony, I will let it slide this time. It was our persistence, devotion to the cause, and willingness to sacrifice that made my family line historic, after all, and I suppose stubborn is simply a more callous way of phrasing those attributes.

If you are not too absorbed in your daily activities, please sit down for a bit. Do you enjoy history? We white oaks, or quercus albas as some might say, are proud of our legacy. Take some tea while I share.

Back in the 1600s, we had tension between a lot of groups, but my family was associated with the English Americans, and the actual English folk had some issues with them being here. The settlers, or colonists really, had managed to be granted a charter. They were happy, like you. Yes, I see your smile, the interest in your eyes. But they were not in the clear.

A new king rose to power in the east – technically England, but didn’t I sound like Tolkien for a moment? And England is east of here. Well, moving on.

King James II did not want us to have the power granted in the charter. There was a meeting between the two groups in Connecticut, and during it, the governing document went missing. You can read about it on the state’s website. That night, one of my ancestors had the honor of keeping the great charter. That grandmother, known as the Charter Oak, lived over 200 years but passed away before my birth.

I myself have been rooted in this North Haven soil for over a century. These stories were passed on to me from my ancestors. But I have seen my own good share of American history.

For example, after the travesty of slavery ended, I lived through an eerily similar Jim Crow era. I was here on this Northern ground for all of it and have observed what I can from this limited standpoint on Sackett Point Road.

The real demographic change in this area occurred during my younger years – the influx of Italian immigrants to this region, yes. I’m glad you know a bit about that social change for our state! It was a blessing to be sure. I witnessed that history being built before my eyes.

My beech and red oak neighbors, the evergreens yonder, they have been good friends to me throughout the years. They cannot claim the same heritage as I, but I appreciate their company nonetheless. Their families have their own unique stories. Mine is embedded, written, preserved in Connecticut history, as we white oaks are the state tree, and I take great pride in that.

Yet I assume you can see by my speaking with you short, loose-limbed creatures that I am not so haughty to think we white oaks are the greatest of all. No, we simply played our part in making this nation a better place.

I do not see much of it with you loose-limbed little ones in this area, but we trees celebrate our diversity and integration here in the Northeast. What do you think of this, young one?

Stock photo of Avon, CT featuring numerous types of trees in harmony

Stock photo of Avon, CT featuring numerous types of trees together

 

Are you off already? Thanks for sharing tea and listening to this rough but royal old fellow. I appreciate your company. Perhaps you will still call me stubborn, but I will hold myself tall till my dying day because I know who I am and where I have come from. I pray your family may know the same lasting honor as mine. Go in peace.

 

The Beech Tree

The giggling girl and boy crept up to me as quietly as their childish mannerisms would allow, glancing all about to ensure that the deed they were about to commit in broad daylight would remain unseen. Then they carved their initials in me, a secret sign of their affections, commemorated forever a yard above my grassy roots.

~~~

I had the pleasure of knowing many children at that parsonage, from the families who lived there to those who attended church next door, and of course the neighbors. I had a fondness for the ones across the street, whom I could only will love upon from my place in the front yard. I knew they needed the love, though.

Like these young ones, I heard the late-night music of the next-door neighbors, saw their blazing campfires through the hedge late at night—the kids thought it frightening, but imagine me! I can’t move, and I’m made of wood! —and watched many a car use the church lot to turn around when they were misguided.

They were good times.

My leathery grey skin and pointed oval leaves basked in a good deal of sunlight and weathered quite a few thunderstorms as the children rode the rope swing literally to pieces, considered the engraving left by that young couple, and gazed up at my smooth branches trying to discern who I was.

The kids relished the autumn when they could rake up and jump in my fallen leaves. They felt accomplished to gather those mounds of feathery gold and joyful to disturb them into a flurry, a fluff, a frizzle, as one might say. I never quite understood the point, but it made me laugh, and their pride rubbed off on me, for I had given them the gift of those leaves—unlike the backyard oaks who were stingy and held on to their dull brown ones until March.

I was generous. I was a pillar. I wasn’t well known, per se, but I know they needed me. They needed me for play and for shade and for their intellect as they studied science. I helped them with all that as their front yard beech tree.

I’m here still, just waiting for more children to run unto this side of the yard again and entertain me with their antics. They’ll come to rely one me soon enough. Everyone needs a tree like me in order to engrave their legend.

The Three Tree

Second back from the front and about two yards to the left of the church house dwelled the Three Tree. A red oak of aimable personality, it had weathered many storms with a genuine grin and lived to see the joy of the children around it.

The church house, known as a parsonage to many, is what I called our split-level ranch, which the church on the property owned and in which it let us live as my dad pastored when we first moved to North Haven.

Our yard had a good handful of trees, each unique and well loved, and was backed by a small forest. The Three Tree, however, sat much closer to the front, far from the occasional nighttime noise of local crowds at a baseball field a couple blocks away.

One had to walk across the parking lot and into the yard to see the Three Tree, but once discovered, it was memorable due to its three trunks that diverged just a couple feet up from the ground. Ancient and strong, the oak would have been a good climbing tree if it had any lower lying branches, which it did not.

The Three Tree witnessed many adventures from us church kids and was in the general vicinity of the Goliath beetle we once found during a picnic.

Along with the White Oak, the Three Tree bordered the small field on its right; the ramp lined the field’s front while the church’s side garden and basement door sealed the left, the sidewalk from that door heading back towards the house and the Three Tree in completion of the rectangular plot of grass.

In this field, my best friend Annabelle and I played Frank and Joe from the Hardy Boys and foraged for nuts when pretending to be Natives, whose cultures and lifestyles I now recognize we knew nothing about.

(Our state’s name itself, Connecticut, is a mispronunciation of the Algonquian word regarding the river that runs through it, and many places in the state and region hearken back to European colonization and the brash overtaking and erasure of Native cultures there.)

Familiar with its history and its present, the Three Tree looked upon us in kind amusement, a silent but wise presence, friendly as we passed by and game for our attempts at climbing.

We were childish, and it was happy. The Three Tree was childish itself, though not spry like us anymore. Age had made it firm but had not worn down its spirit.

Its three arms opened to the blue sky filled with cumulus puffballs, ready to receive either a child or a thunderstorm and ready to protect its area with its hearty leaves that stayed green through the winter and turned brown and fell frustratingly atop fresh ground each spring.

The church property was neglected once we moved out of state, and the Three Tree’s life cut short with some of its companions years before that, but the memory of this unique red oak, which was at once playful and firm, lives on.


Note:

I am still working on images for this series. Please bear with me and engage your imagination until (and even after) I draw replicas of the dear trees I am describing. I will add them to their respective posts when ready. Thank you.

PC: KSB

Introduction to Memoirs of the Trees, a new blog series

I grew up in New England, surrounded by forests. Trees dwelt in my yard, encompassed our vehicle as we drove around town, sat watch at Sleeping Giant where we hiked regularly, and huddled in New York’s Adirondack Mountains where we traveled some summers.

Apple trees lay below us on Blue Hills Road on the way from Cheshire to North Haven. Above me, below me, and around me in Connecticut were oaks, beeches, maples, and pines of earth brown, spotted yellow, vibrant maroon, and green of all shades. No other region of the U.S. can compare to the diversity of foliage in New England.

Perhaps you have heard of Ents. If you’ve read Lord of the Rings, you know of their wisdom and the histories that lie deep within their hearts in the Fangorn Forest.

In this blog series, Memoirs of the Trees, I would like to share the histories of specific trees whose lives have crossed mine. In this way, I will honor the trees that have impacted my life.

Perhaps the tree will share a particular moment in its life, or perhaps it will describe a stretch of years. Spun from my reality, these stories will include creative elements stretching back into history, imagined occurrences as well as actual connections had with humans.

Enjoy this blog series and take some time to honor the land that has shaped you. Next week will begin the first of many stories regarding trees that I hold dear. Thank you.