Monday, November 07, 2016

Trees and Faith and People

Nathan in Tree 2.jpg
Nathan the tree climber, 2004, age 6.
When my son Nathan was a toddler I told him that I was heading to the nursery to buy a tree for our yard. Up until now we had only installed a sprinkler system and some struggling hydroseed for our lawn. It was a sad little yard, hot and shadeless. When I came home from the nursery, Nathan took one look at that sapling of a tree and with disappointment exclaimed, “Mom I wanted the kind of tree you can climb!” Fair enough. I wanted shade and he wanted to climb. Neither of us would get what we wanted, at least not yet. It was going to be a while. Years in fact.

Spindly little Tulip tree. The wind later snapped it in half. :(

We moved by the time Nathan was eight so he never got to climb a tree in our yard nor did I enjoy any shade at that house, but I was determined to make both happen. In our new house, once again we had the arduous task of putting in a yard. And that meant planting more trees. We planted Ash trees, Flowering Pears, Aspens, Redbuds, and Maples. Ten years later I have my shade. And maybe Nathan is too big to climb trees now, but his little girl or boy will get to climb our 23 trees someday. They'll be large enough by then.
Birds feeding under my Patmore Ash

Thankfully I do have shade now. I need its refuge. This sun worshiper is getting too old to sit bare-faced in the hot backyard anymore without a bit of respite from the glaring sun. As I sit under my 10-year old trees, listening to the messages in the rustling leaves, watching the birds eat from the orange feeder, I think about my little son and his desire to climb a tree that couldn’t even bear his tiny body weight and how everything worth having in life takes as much time as growing a climb-able tree. Faith. Healthy relationships. Healing. Patience. Perspective. The messages in those fluttering leaves have taught me how God speaks to me--subtle but sure. Trees take years. So do people.

Orange tukips in Keukenhof, Netherlands

After ten years, some tree roots are large enough that they are visible through my lawn. I planted about 50 orange tulip bulbs a few weeks ago. As I dug holes all around my yard I kept running into the deeper but smaller, more spidery, tree roots. I did my best not to disturb them, to let them do their own thing, and to carefully plant the bulbs around the roots into our rocky Utah soil. Those thin little roots will get thicker and more stable year after year. They'll keep progressing and spreading, sending out more roots, like I am, even when, or especially when, growth seems to be negligible and even non-existent.

Nathan the graduate under our shady Maple.

Last week we hiked through Zion's, in Kolob Canyon, through a thin and narrow passage filled with brightly colored fall trees. As we hiked, a gust of wind came through quickly and I heard that familar movement of leaves. Paul stopped and said “I love that sound, the rush of wind through a narrow canyon.” He heard wind but I heard God, once again whispering to me through rustling leaves, that everything is going to be okay. He is aware of me. I matter. Be patient. Let my roots grow deeper. He has given me shade for now, and soon it will be time to climb.

Autumn leaves in Kolob Canyon


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