Friday evening a northern high pressure system collided with a vagrant mess of hot, sultry weather in Southwestern Ontario. Tornadoes touched down some 100 km from where I live, and gusts of up to 100 km/hour were reported in our area. I sat in my living room, mouth agape as trees ducked to escape sheets of water rifled at them with Thor-like intensity. After the storm subsided, I took a peak in our back yard. I was astounded to find that our neighbor’s 80 foot tall tree lay on his lawn. It fell at such an angle that it narrowly missed his shed in the back. The fall left a hole in the yard the size of a large fish-pond., The size of the now horizontal tree became evident as it engulfed half of his backyard. As he, I and my wife surveyed the damage, I expressed my condolences. He appeared heart broken and it struck me that for many – including me – a tree is more than a tree.
I was intrigued to learn, not so long ago, that one of the Norse sagas claims that humans were morphed from trees. In the book I call holy, certain trees are identified as sources of life, and the knowledge of good and evil. As we roamed across Norway last month, we also learned that some believed and believe elves to live in solitary trees. Many cultures have little people of one sort or another associated with tree life.
In many ways, there is more to a tree than meets the eye.
Across the road from our house, I bumped into Jim yesterday. Jim was cleaning up the aftermaths of the storm in his own front yard. We spoke of our neighbour’s loss. Jim was deeply saddened. He has a some stately trees of his own, including a spectacular oak. I once asked him the age of this tree, and he told me that he an arborist had suggested that it was likely over 300 years old. That tree at the corner of his yard was there before there was a yard, a street, a town, etc. If trees could talk, what tales they could tell! If we could hear, what stories we could savour!
In the book Tree: A Life Story, David Suzuki and Wayne Grady explain that the difference between hemoglobin (a human’s life blood) and chlorophyll (a tree’s life blood) is the presence of Iron where Magnesium is found in an otherwise identical molecule. Perhaps we humans have more in common with these gentle giants than first meets the eye. When all the trees of the forest sing for joy (Psalm 96:12), perhaps we might join in, and begin to learn a little about joy, about life, about tenacity.