The Oak is Declaring the Glory of God

Last month, the Office for Sustainability and the Office of Indigenous Initiatives at the university where I work held a celebration. It was to honour the establishment of a small, but mighty, “forest” planted beside the Indigenous Student Centre: a small stand of trees that are in various stages of maturity, reflecting the diversity of trees in our area. As a part of the Canada 150 celebrations, “Tree Canada” provided a grant that funded this project. Part of the news release associated with the event noted that trees are symbols of “growth, strength, sustainability, hope, and peace.”.

I went to the dedication event, which involved some Indigenous prayers and rituals, speeches from Tree Canada and the relevant offices. Pictures where taken, food was offered, and at the end of it all, we were invited to go to a tent to choose a tree to take home. I texted my wife with the list of trees on offer, and she suggested that we go with a Bur Oak. So, I went and grabbed the tree slip, and brought it home at the end of the day. She seemed a little dismayed at seeing it. It was no more than 8 inches tall, but we both agreed that you cannot gainsay the joy of a tree, no matter its size. We sat down in our back yard with a cup of coffee in hand, deciding where it should go.

This is no easy decision. At the event, one of the speakers reminded us that these slips can grow to be huge trees: “Think about where you plant them!” was the watchword. We sized up our yard, imagining that one day, this little fellow would grow to be 15 to 30 metres tall. This would take some time, given the speed at which the Bur Oak grows. It is an interesting task, to hold a tree you the palm of your hand, imaging that one day it could well be the most significant feature in your back yard, likely long after you have passed on the property, and perhaps have passed on – period.

After much deliberation, we finally found a spot, and planted the tree with some wire around it. We have had an unusually active crop of rabbits in the area these days, and they indiscriminately eat everything we put in the ground, so we wanted to be safe. Shortly after our planting, we flew out west for some holidays and time visiting family. Upon returning, one of the first things we did was check on our little oak, but were devastated to discover it had disappeared! The wire was strewn on the ground, and coming up from the ground was nothing.

We lamented this loss, mindful that the ways of nature are not always light and joy. Yet, this too is a part of heavens declaring the glory of God. In the midst of life is death as surely as life is in the midst of death. We didn’t exactly shed tears, but it was a sad moment. In due course, the loss was left aside, and we prepared for a trip to Ireland.

Just yesterday, some weeks after the loss of the oak, I was poking around where it used to be, and was utterly astounded to see poking up through the soil a fresh shoot. I called my wife over, and we are most certain that this is the beginning of an oak. Could it be that the little tree set down a root that is shaking its fist at the rabbits and their indiscriminate foraging? Could it be that a tree truly is a symbol of “growth, strength, sustainability hope, and peace”? This may well be the case. At any rate, we are cheering on our little tree, and imagining our yard in a hundred years or so, with a mighty oak speaking peace to those who set their eyes on it.

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Arboreal Lessons

Our tree is not ours, but it
allows us to imagine it
so. It has much to
teach us, each
fall shedding
its skin,

leaving a leaf on step,

which when wet plays

the mirror and so

allows me to see my eyes

on its veins. It minds me.

This tree, with its leaf, speaks to me of creation and its end.

It knows intimately
the wager of letting
go: falling from
branch’s security.

It knows of farewells
and weeping
and the beauty of
ochred red against verdant grace.

It knows that this blue
globe we call home is
ocular: God’s seeing us.

Stars tell tales

Friends, I am back now from a vacation inspired hiatus from this little blog. I am looking forward to catching up on what you have written and another year of writing!

Allen

Stars tell tales, but
few have ears to hear
such light, to see
such songs aside from
mystics and children and the odd poet,
too, who can turn light to sound and
sound to light to delight us
plebeians. These draw us
out and speak in us
the spark that
begins the burn.

Embers echo stars.
They twinkle sagas of
births and deaths;
of dragons and elves.

The chronicles of trees and my kind, too,
are not so very different:
tears, sap
sap, blood
blood, leaf
leaf, skin
skin, bark
bark, voice
voice, root
root, foot
foot and trunk both
drunk in the Mystery.

Stars tell tales

Stars tell tales, but
few have ears to hear
such light, to see
such songs yet
mystics and children and the odd poet,
too, can turn light to sound and
sound to light to delight us
plebeians.  These might
draw us  out and so
speak in us the spark
that begins
the burn.

 

Embers echo stars.
They twinkle sagas of
births and deaths;
of dragons and elves.

 

The chronicles of trees and my kind, too,
are not so very different:
tears, sap
sap, blood
blood, leaf
leaf, skin
skin, bark
bark, voice
voice, root
root, foot
foot and trunk both
drunk in the Mystery.

Of Forests and Trees

The photo below chronicles an event of some significance on my neighbour’s lawn. This last spring he took out a very old, and weary maple tree from his front yard. It had reached the end of its days and was no longer much more than a tall stump with a few way-laid branches. We all were beginning to worry about its coming down at an inopportune time on a unfortunate car, or even person.

In early spring, an arborist took down the tree, ground out the stump, and planted some grass on the re-soiled spot. Alas, the effort seemed to be in vain, and so a few weeks ago my neighbour re-seeded the area. He has been hard at work trying to coax the grass to rise: alternately watering and watching with care. In the interim, a huge – and very healthy – maple in my front yard has been in the business of blanketing the neighbourhood with maple keys, those glorious little helicopter like things that float down. My tree is “sowing its wild oats” – yet cyclically. Every seven years or so the tree is a bit more libidinous than normal. This was one of those years. Our front lawn and driveway has been blanketed in keys in a manner akin to the fall flurry of leaves. Indeed, it is not only our lawn that has been so very blessed, but our neighbour’s as well. The other day he was laughing at the fact that even though he is rid of his maple, he still has maple work to do. I grinned awkwardly.

Just this last week, however, I grinned gratefully as, getting out of my car, I glanced out and looked upon my neighbour’s yard: what once was a bit of lawn with tenacious grass had become even thicker in green. But upon closer inspection, I realized that the lawn had, in part, become a forest of miniature maples. The picture below does not quite do it justice, that bit of the lawn is really vibrating with energy!

I’m not sure if our neighbour will choose to let one of these babies grow; if I were him, I would be sorely tempted. He certainly has many to choose from and the price is right. But he may have other plans for his yard, and the lawn mower may well spell the end of this canopy in miniature. In either event, I have been once again gob smacked by the ways in which earth’s fecundity sometimes appears formidable.

The green is rich in our yards these days, and colour is bursting forth in unexpected places bringing unrivalled pleasure. It is a beautiful world for those with occasion and willingness to engage it. Yet June is also a busy time for many, including me. Thankfully, this curio-canopy reminds me of the need to wrench myself away from the so many “important” tasks that rob me of both forests and trees. Jesus once told us to “consider the lilies of the field,” and may very well still be inviting us, too, to feel the trees between our toes.

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“The Reign of God is like this: it is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and sleep and rise night and day, and the seed sprout and grow even while the person knows not how it happens.” Jesus