Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Texture of Trees

I have become acutely aware of trees.

Robert Frost used them as a recurring motif in his poetry.

If one wishes to sustain the health of the planet, he risks being branded a “tree hugger.” Is that a bad thing?

Many nights this past winter, I sat up in front of the fire, the red glow bouncing off the walls, the ghosts of history all around, whispering out of the darkness.  The flames popped and hissed through the textured wood, warming the room against the chill, bringing comfort and dreams.

I taught a class last fall where I would give my students a topic to write about and turn them loose for twenty minutes to create.  While they tapped away at their laptops, I watched the trees outside the window, huge old Eucalypti, swaying in the wind off the ocean.  I felt as if they were whispering to me, calling my name, telling me that although I have loved being in the classroom for a long time, maybe I needed to break away.  Maybe I needed to be elsewhere, to go off and be bold and courageous.

Trees are the sentinels of our lives. Their rings tell a story. Their bark contains the scars of old fires, the careless ax, the hand-carved names of lovers long broken up, or even dead.

And of course, trees are us. Our bark tells a story. Our roots in a place go deep, and when we fall, we do so with a suddenness that shakes the very earth where we stand, a huge crash.

This year, a few days of high winds toppled trees through out southern California, littering the streets with branches and trunks, ripping down power lines, crushing cars. Trees hold power. Even against a bolt of lightening, the tree often still stands, smoldering.

I once learned an important lesson about words sitting in a tree.

My love and I carved our names in a tree when we were in the early days of our life together.  We returned to that tree older and wiser.  Our names were gone, subsumed by the trunk and bark, but we were still together.

I have come to appreciate the texture of trees.  I listen and meditate to their whispering language.  Even when I feel that I am alone in the world, and far from those I love, I know the trees are there, standing tall.  For this reason, I love them, like I love the mountains, like I love a blue sky in early spring, like I love the possibilities and the promises.  We grow old with them, and their silence is their wisdom.

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