Trees

When we moved back from Morocco, I noticed a lot of dead trees – many more than what I remembered from before our move. I kept mentioning this to others and they’d say they hadn’t noticed and then they’d look at me quizzically, as if their worst fears were realized: Yep. She was brainwashed by some crazy Islamist over there and now, not only does she love Muslims, she’s lost her grip on reality, too.

But I am convinced trees are dying at a more rapid rate than they used to. Kinda like people right now.

PATRIARCH TREES

All this virus stuff propagating thoughts on death and disease has made me consider these dead trees. And I’ve observed a few things: The biggest and oldest trees grow taller every year and push farther heavenward as they seek the sun. They are like wise, old patriarchs who are masters at protecting, nurturing, sheltering and beautifying. Their tall, sturdy trunks reveal years and years of battle scars: they have fought valiantly in many a storm. Their inside rings secretly reveal their age and their bark tells the stories eternally etched as lover’s initials or all those who “were here.” Further inspection discloses nooks and crevices that served as safe havens to multiple needy forest creatures over the years. Even into old age, their role for the world so evident: Their roots go so deep, they are unshakeable.

These trees have done their good work for decades, maybe even centuries. But eventually, they will tire and fade and die because nothing lasts forever. And they will most certainly be missed by anyone who notices the trees. Something vital and essential to our landscape will be gone! However, GOOD NEWS!  The old trees have left behind numerous smaller trees in their perimeter and they have now grown to the point where they are ready to mature independently. Why are these young trees so ready and able? Because they have been nurtured, protected, and sheltered by the taller, bigger, and older trees! And you know what happens when the old trees finally die? The little ones below suddenly receive more sunlight! They are able to push heavenward a little easier without the heavy shade of the older trees!

REVERENCE

This is what I’ve noticed in best communities: they revere the old trees. They surround them with beauty like flowers or hostas and a bench. Often, the bench has a gold commemorative plaque honoring someone who did some good thing. Passersby will stop and read the plaque, sit on the bench and admire the tree that shades it. They’ll run their hands over the bark and try to figure out how old the tree is and who the people are behind all the carved initials.

No one digs up old trees and places them all in one location so they can die huddled together, spreading diseases faster than a forest fire. No, the tall, old trees are out in the public square, in the parks and in our yards. We revere those trees because we know they’ve EARNED their spot and their recognition. We sit beneath them and thank them for their years.

Why can’t the same be true for elderly people?

What if we sat at the feet of elderly people and revered them and appreciated their experiences and wisdom? What if we asked them if we could feel their skin and wrinkles? What if we asked Grandma how she met Grandpa? What if we asked them how they chose their professions? What if we asked what it was like to live during World War II? What if we asked them if they had old journals or diaries and if we could read them together? What if we asked them what kind of music they listened to growing up and then listened to it together? What if we made plaques commemorating what astounding individuals they are and put them on their doorposts so everybody could see? What if we respected the elderly as much as we respected old trees?

A PRAYER FOR THE TREES

I asked my mom about the tree comparison recently. At 79 years old, she says she is ready to “bow out” of the woods and let the younger trees rise up and take her place. She told me all her (older) friends feel the same way. She said it’s okay if a crazy virus takes her life. “God knows the number of my days. It’s the classic circle of life. I’m okay to make way for you younger trees to rise up and have your time in the sun.”

My prayer for you and for me, is that as we age, we can be like the trees.

May we all, at the end of our days, be able to say our roots go down deep, that we provided shelter and food and a home for those in our vicinity with need. May our exterior not be perfect, but showing clear signs of wear and tear that signify we have lived fully – engaged in the difficult but necessary work of life. May we say that although our presence in the “forest” around us ended, we did, indeed, encourage growth to our surroundings and may we look about us and recognize a whole forest of younger people ready to take over our many roles of service. And may those young people look up to us patriarch trees and say, “It has been nice having you in my forest. I’d never be who I am today without you in my life.”

20 thoughts on “Trees

  1. LOVE your thoughtfulness, depth, and rich meanings to think about the trees. Just beautiful.

  2. Absolutely beautiful Cindy! I am such a lover of trees and nature. This message touched my heart and my soul.

    Thank you and God bless you Cindy,
    Jill

    1. Thank you, Jill! I always appreciate your feedback. I, too, experience God so deeply in nature. For me, it is a more spiritual experience to walk through a woods or sit and watch the ocean than it is to go to church. I wouldn’t never give up the latter for the former – because I truly believe we need both. But I do believe God has something powerful to teach us in nature and our busy, bustling lives often make us miss the message.

    1. I often thought of the the trees you and I and Karen grieved over while I wrote this blog. Trees should never be casually disregarded and destroyed. And people even MORESO!!! Such a sad world when we have to REMIND people of this precious gift of life!!!

    1. Thanks, Carole! I spend a lot of time praying over a blog before I hit “publish.” Because if it isn’t true or good or glorifying God, then it’s garbage and I don’t want to say it. And that’s harder than I thought it’d be!!!

      1. Oh no. I like the emotion. Bring it on! Tears cleanse the soul I always say. The day I stop crying (over things that move the heart of God) will be the day I start dying.

    1. Oh no. I like the emotion. Bring it on! Tears cleanse the soul I always say. The day I stop crying (over things that move the heart of God) will be the day I start dying.

  3. Very nice, Cindy. Judy and I comment often, why didn’t we have deep conversations with out folks. I wish I would have talked to my Dad more. What was it like coming to the United States at age 17 in 1921. And so much more.
    So much history lost. Wish now that I could talk to John DeWitt Hy Yntema, And some of the old Browers. And a lot more of the old “Grovers” Hopfully the younger generation will learn to ask and talk. But we both say. We were so busy raising our family, all that old history stuff wasn’t important. Now it is. Thanks again

    1. Thanks, Paul! And I totally agree that we can never spend TOO much time with the older and wiser. They DESERVE that kind of respect, but also, we would be so blessed and encouraged to sit at their feet and listen to their stories! I SO wish I could ask my grandparents what it was like to leave the Netherlands and come to America as teenagers – who couldn’t speak a word of English – and with only $15 to their name!!! But I guess it’s never too late to start! Think of Iris Myaard – I can only imagine the wonderful stories she could share! And truly, my hearts cry is that we would all, in general, just treat the elderly with more kindness and respect. THAT is something VERY achievable!!!

  4. When I read your writing, I can visualize what you are trying to say. This is a sign of a GOOD writer. To be able to beautiful compare trees to the life of an older person (I guess I classify myself as “older” now!) is to be able to “see” the beauty of nature as God intended it but also to see the beauty of a life lived for others (we hope!).
    Thank you for always blessing me with your God-given talent and creativity!

    1. A compliment like that from YOU carries a LOT of weight, Kathy! Thanks so much. I sometimes tire of just writing random thoughts, thinking “Who the heck cares, anyway?” ANd then I get some feedback where someone was touched or blessed and even if it is only ONE person, I think, “Well, God must want me to keep pressing on in this!” So, I do. You’re such an encourager and I thank you so much for being part of my “tribe!”

  5. Such a beautiful post once again Cindy- loved it. We live on a tiny corner plot in the middle of the city but still have 10 trees of various shapes and sizes between our front and backyard! And I love every one! you draw such beautiful comparisons between old trees and the elderly. I loved thinking about their role in sheltering the younger trees but yet how the added sunlight when the old tree is gone encourages the young ones to rise up and take their place…. beautiful. Thank you for sharing your gift with the rest of us!! 😊

    1. Thanks, Patty! I’ve always loved trees and elderly people. Even when I was 18 years old, I worked in a nursing home and truly, deeply, fell in love with those people. And now I see this correlation so clearly – both are vulnerable and both need to be protected!!! xoxo

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