Monday, April 2, 2012

As Lovely As a Tree

Only God knows how long this oak has resided in this spot. He knew the moment life sprang from a tiny acorn and roots began to grow. He remembers the very first spring when it pushed it's way through the rocky soil and into the sunlight and rain. From the moment it was a tiny sapling struggling to grow a dozen or so leaves, to the time it became mighty and shaded the ground beneath it. Every leaf that has ever grown green and lush and then fallen to the earth is counted and known. Each Autumn that it's fruit has fed squirrels and deer and birds from it's branches, the creator has record. Every bird that has nested in its great arms; God knows. 

For the past 12 years, I've gazed upon this tree daily. It occupies a prominent space in the field behind my house so my eyes are simply met by this creation every day, sometimes with reverence, sometimes with random monotony. I remember the day I took this picture. We were praying for rain during a very hot summer and storm clouds were building in the north creating an amazing spectacle of light and shade. I stood with my camera in hand, heart in my throat, trying to capture the moment...astonished at the light and the power of God and nature. 

2 summers ago, my family gathered beneath it's branches to bury and mourn our beloved family pet, Eddie. The summer breeze blew through it's boughs and sang a solemn tune as we wept. Reverently it watched on as we placed him in the earth, and stood by for the days that followed to keep watch over the place where he laid. I placed wind-chimes in one of it's limbs to bring joy and peace to this space. Over the years that I've watched it drop it's leaves and grow them back again, I've grown quite fond of it. Then I remember to thank God for allowing me the capacity to love a tree. 

We knew it was languishing a couple years ago. The poor trunk had become so old that it was beginning to decay near the earth. It would let go of a branch now and then when a storm blew through. Last years drought was more than it could bear and it decided to simply cease living. I was a little hopeful that it might come back this spring and try one more year, but it has remained bare. 

The scripture from Isaiah 55:12 rings through my soul often...
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. 

So now I daily gaze upon the remnants of what was once living and grand and think of life and it's fleeting vapor. For as long as this mighty oak has lived, 100 years, 200 years? was still here today and gone tomorrow. I wonder how many changes it has seen. If it was here when the fields were orchards and strawberry fields? Has it seen the tilling of soil with ox and plow? Did another family, a century ago, gather beneath it to pray? Were songs sung here and picnics eaten? Was it planted by man or did a jay bird misplace an acorn? I'm anxious to cut it down and count it's rings to know the length of it's life on earth.

 It will be cut down and used for firewood, and even that won't be it's last gift. For firewood becomes ashes, and ashes feed the earth. What a brilliant plan of our Master and Creator. These are the lessons learned from God. 
Let me be as selfless as a tree. To be blessed by my Creator as I stand firm in my faith so much so that it feeds and shelters those who would seek refuge beneath it. 

I think that I shall never see;
a poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day
and lifts it's leafy arms to pray,

A tree that may in summer wear
a nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree
                                                Joyce Kilmer