Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tree People

It can first be noticed in August with the occasional golden dangling bauble and the slight scattering of pale orange across the floor.

You blink and in September catch a glimpse of brilliant yellow accessories, muted orange laces and vivid red trims around the edges.

Turn around and October brings the full-length mahogany robes, flowing, golden gowns and windswept capes of speckled patterns.

By the end of November, the grand parade fades away - all the finery swiftly shed to lie tattered and sodden on the floor beneath cold, naked bodies.

It is so easy to take them for granted. Especially here, in the Pacific Northwest, where we are so accustomed to seeing them that our eyes scarcely notice. From the time they first sprout, tiny and unimpressive in the forest duff, until (Lord knows how many years later ) they finally cease growing, producing leaves and flowing their sap, they are a constant, silent presence. Certainly, we welcome their blossoms and fine, lacy greenery in early spring after a long, dark, wet winter. In summer we enjoy the cool shade of some and lush fruit of others. Fall brings some to brilliant color, some simply wither to a dull brown & fade away, and many remain (outwardly at least) just as they are. By winter, there are the harsh, bare skeletons and ominous, dark shapes in the gray mist.

But even now, during this “resting” time , they are at work. Penetrating deeply, their roots seek out life-giving water, hold soil in place, create air spaces below. Above ground, they affect the air, taking in gases we don’t need, giving off the oxygen we do.

So many living things depend on them - grow beneath the shelter of their trunks, upon their branches, among their leaves, within their wood. Creatures perch, peck, claw, gnaw, scramble, slither and dig about and within. We humans are among their benefactors, using what they produce, as well as their very bodies, to such an extent that we never give it a second thought...
Take the time for a close look. Notice the shape, color, hang of their leaves. Examine their trunks and discover their patterns, textures, thicknesses - inhabitants! Rub your cheek against them, inhaling deeply of their particular scent - the dry pine forest, the dank cedar one are very different. Close your eyes to listen as the wind stirs through - fir, spruce, alder, cottonwood, willow, aspen; each chorus hums its own melody. I think of them as “tree people” and no two are exactly alike - ever.

In a quiet moment sometime, take note of your surroundings - wherever you might be. Mentally remove all that comes from trees. Odd though it may seem, spend some time thinking of those trees - and then imagine a world without them... I cannot.

I will put in the wilderness the cedar,
the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive;
I will set in the desert the cypress,
the plane and the pine together;
that men may see and know,
may consider and understand together,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.
Isaiah 41.19-20

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