Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Branches of Peace

Max was my first love.  He was tall and strong, the only tree of climbable size on our property.  I loved to scramble up into his limbs and hide in the shade there.  From my perch I could escape from the world and think deep 11-year-old thoughts.  Later, I realized that Max was a Silver Maple; a tree with little to recommend itself: weak wood, entangling surface roots and the lack of any attractive fall color.  But Max was more than the sum of his deficiencies.  He was my childhood refuge.

Twenty-some years later, the only scrambling I do is towards my IMac, to see what I might have missed since I last sat in front of it (usually a space of about 15 minutes).  I love technology.  I'm not smart enough for 80% of it, but it is addictive.  That's the problem.  I’m glued to it; in a bad way.  Gone are the days of finding introspective solitude in Max's shade.  Now I spend my free time living vicariously through other people’s experiences.  Vicarious is a far cry, a recorded substitute, for the real thing.  I’ve forgotten the sustenance I once found, sitting quietly in a tree, reflecting on my own life.

Bill Sullivan is a design professor at the University of Illinois, and aside from instructing me and countless others in his scrupulous design theory, he conducts research on the effect nature has on society.  His studies are conducted throughout the concrete jungles of Chicago’s public housing development.  In one study, Nice to Meet You, his premise is that trees build a neighborhood.  His research reveals that communities with more trees fostered friendlier neighbors.  In another study, Green Streets, Not Mean Streets, he reports dropping crime rates in direct relation to increasing greenspace.  Trees produce more than oxygen, they enrich the very air we breathe with peace.  

In fact, the Bible is loaded with references to trees.  God used their root systems, their strength, their provision of fruit to teach us about His will.  Although David makes no mention of trees in Psalm 46:10, it is quite possibly my favorite tree verse.  Be still and know that I am God.  Trees embody many facets of biblical wisdom.  They persevere through storms of adversity.  They soak up the sustenance God provides and ask for little more.  They work daily to turn sunlight, minerals and water into sugar, so they can grow more.  Their response to painful pruning?  Growth in a healthy, new direction.  In the Fall, they surrender to the coming cold with flaming displays of gratefulness for a summer of provision.  Trees show us how to live through all the seasons of our lives. 

Standing tall outside my sister’s home is a towering Norway maple.  “May” as she has affectionately been tagged, is as much a part of their home as the front door.  She fills up the view from the sunroom, and every Fall, a slow-motion fireworks display dances through her foliage.  Six children are growing in that home and playing Maple Tree Tag beneath her canopy.  Unbeknownst to them, May is adding a depth to their childhood that can’t be reproduced technologically.  

One of the most touching tales of a tree's nature is found in The Giving Tree.  “Once there was a tree" it begins, "and she loved a little boy.”  The story that unfolds sweetly reveals the generosity of trees and personifies the Golden Rule.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  When I take the time to slow down and soak up a bit of nature, God gives me glimpses of His love.  Don't let this autumn slip away without dedicating some time outside.  You may find more on the breeze than you expected.


Casa Mariposa said...

Wonderful post! You are an excellent writer! Even though my 16 yr old daughter professes to despise my garden, her favorite place to while away her days is on the hammock in the midst of it and when possessed of a bit of cash, tops in every floral motif fill her bags. After spending all day in my bright windowless classroom, I ache for natural light and trees. Nature is truly restorative, except when you are so excited/conflicted about a new garden design that you can't sleep and are a cranky, distracted zombie the next day. Then the only things that help are cookies, leaving work early on your planning period for an "appt" to putter around your garden, and a snuggly dog. :o) Oh wait, I'm back to nature again, aren't I?

Lyn said...

That Norway Maple is spectacular! My favourite verse about trees is from Jeremiah 17:17,18

But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Design to Grow said...

You two ladies are so encouraging....bless you! My blog goes in our local paper weekly as a column and I was a BIT nervous about this one. Thanks so much for being your wonderful selves!

Tammy, NO windows? That's just cruel and unusual punishment. No wonder you're gaga for gardens! Time to punch a hole in the ceiling for a skylight! : )

Lyn, I LOVE that verse. Isn't it fascinating how God has woven His truth into the Creation around us? We only have to look around to discover Him. What a treat to have you share that. : )

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