Reflections on a Life

Reflections on a Life

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Trees captivate me.

Some of my earliest memories are of trees.  I remember lying in the grass and watching the sunlight playing through leaves and just....wondering... about being alive and breathing and being in love with that perfect moment of stillness and beauty. (We are so wise as children and then, for some reason, we lose it.)

My brother Paul and I used to scout through the woods looking for treasure and adventure and one day discovered a magnificent beech tree.  This particular tree was like a ladder to the clouds and we knew we had discovered something incredible.

The first thing we did was climb that behemoth!  The branches were close enough to the ground that small people could easily reach and swing skinny legs up and over and then it was just a hand-over-hand climb up, up, up.  The trick was to keep climbing and always concentrate on the next hand and foot hold... and never, ever look down.  I know this because the once that I did look down, I was frozen in place.  My precious brother and best friend had to help me down, one branch at a time, until I was close enough to earth that I felt safe.  Lesson learned?  Keep looking up.

We immediately ran home and reported our find to our mother who promptly agreed to be shown this monster tree.  She put aside the work she was doing and followed her excited and happy children back into the woods to check out their discovery.  Mama had exactly the same reaction to that tree as we did.  She started climbing.  It is a wonderful thing to discover for a child that you have a mother willing to drop her work, follow you into the woods and then climb an enormous tree!

When mom moved into her current home, she wasn't satisfied until she had a beech tree sapling planted squarely in the middle of her enormous back yard.  She planted it for Paul and me.  That's love.

Over the years I have continued to be drawn to trees to the extent that my husband refers to me as a Druid, an apt moniker.  He has had to stop the car in order for me to take pictures of particularly striking trees.  I have an album dedicated to the pictures taken over the years and a dream to publish my work or display it somewhere.  Tom has seen me throw my arms around particularly impressive trees as well as witness me mourning the mutilation or death of trees.

The only thing sadder than the untimely death of a beautiful tree (through storm or fire or ill-planned construction) is the scalping of a tree in the name of tree husbandry called topping - as if something akin to tree torture could be considered beneficial to the life and growth of a tree.  I know that those responsible for this kind of abuse believe that they are doing the tree a service but they wouldn't dream of cutting off fingers and toes of a child to help them grow better.  I see no difference.

But enough of my personal rant and back to what I love.....

There is something profoundly beautiful about a tree in winter.  Partly because without all the dressing of green or outrageous fall colors, a winter tree stands proudly naked for all the world to see without regard to age or infirmity assuming, of course, that it hasn't been trimmed and topped and pruned into submission or some other definition of beauty.  A winter tree shows us what it is truly made of.  We can see that each species of tree has a specific shape and quality making it uniquely an oak or a maple or a sycamore or a walnut.  It doesn't hide its weathering or wear.  The breaks and falls it has taken over the years can be seen, but one can also see the self-healing the tree has accomplished given enough time.

Ruthie B is in love with trees for all these reasons.  I especially love the metaphor they represent to a life well lived -  their strength and individuality and character, their ability to provide shelter and protection,  their invitation to climb and explore and reach for the stars.... and their willingness to expose their hearts for all to see.

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