Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Giving Tree

It came crashing to the ground at four this morning, a much-too-early wake-up call even for my early-riser parents. With flashlights in hand, they walked outside in pajamas and slippers to see the "what" and then the "how much."
An unseen rotten spot atop a major limb. 8+ inches of rain soaking into the sponge-like pulp over the past two weeks. And gravity. Mix those three ingredients together, and 1/4 of the tree cracked off. As it fell, the end of the limbs jammed deep into soft dirt before the broken section's base fell back hard against the tree's trunk, its weight was so massive that it literally pushed the tree backwards, tilting it like the leaning Tower of Pisa so that a tire swing now sits on the ground instead of hanging suspended.Incredibly, it missed the roof--taking off just one shingle. Miraculously, it missed the air conditioners, landing mere feet from the units. The south flower garden fence suffered one picket bent, one broken, and a rose bush smashed. But nothing more. That's God.

For my entire life, this large pin oak has been a main fixture in the back of my childhood home. Towering higher than the rooftops, it has made a great home for many a gray fluffy-tailed squirrel that we fed corn each winter, a few squeaking flying squirrels that we'd come outside to listen for at night, and who knows how many nests of birds whose songs we enjoyed.

Each summer, my brother and I would circle its trunk, searching for locust shells hooked in the bark and later, listening to them sing in a great chorus as dusk settled. We would help our mother plant pink and green "Miss Muffet" caladium bulbs beneath it in a circle and smash the wild blue ink flowers between our fingers, staining our hands purple.

Many a Thanksgiving or Fourth of July, we enjoyed feasts in its shade, rode bicycles over its roots, and spent many hours playing, laughing, and living in the shadow of its branches.

Now, its days are numbered. After our trip to Michigan, it will be deconstructed by a team of professionals.

And I'm sure I will cry.

Trees aren't just "trees" to those of us whose lives are intricately intwined with God's creation. Planting them, watching them grow, watching them die--they form a pattern for tracing life, for marking time.

The triple oaks across the front yard, seeded in 1977 when I was born and still growing tall, although once not much taller than I.

The gumball tree my parents removed when I was a little girl because it was too messy and the gumball and acorn wreath my mother helped me make with the picture of Christ's nativity in the center.

The large leaning pine that fell silently in the night, giving me a big surprise the next morning when I went to start my car for another day at college only to find new pine branches bushing where there was grass the day before.

The twin pin oaks whose bowl-shaped roots I mixed "leaf and mushroom soup in after a rain. Then, those two becoming one after I learned from my college botany teacher that leaving both would mean both would die.

The white pine that fell during the last hurricane, the dogwood planted to mark my brother's birth in 1980 and my mother crying when it "drowned."

My entire life has been marked in trees.

It's those towering grandfathers and grandmothers that make an impression on me, the ones who have stood the test of time, weathered life's storms, and affected lives just by their presence.

Soon, this will be just another well-loved ancient in a long line of those who will be missed.

1 comment:

  1. I feel like I'm reading poetry...your words are so rich and beautiful, I can almost see the purple hands and leaning pine tree. I think God is sad right along with you. I really believe that His love for animals and nature is more than we can even comprehend. And to think He loves us even more! It's too much to take in...