Voice of a treePublished 6:19pm Wednesday, May 8, 2013
By Dent Davis
The home where I grew up was surrounded by trees, big trees and lots of them. It was like living in a forest. I have always loved trees. I played under them, climbed them, raked their leaves, and gathered acorns. As a young boy we built tree houses. Later in Boy Scouts, I learned the differences between trees, how to recognize them by leaf and bark, and how to prune them, cut them and identify their use for building, carving, and firewood.
For anyone who is a tree lover, as I am, there is no better time of year than spring. To watch the flowers bloom and the leaves emerge, to see acorns begin to sprout and take root, and to watch the heroic efforts of great old gnarled trees beaten down by years of wind and storm as they begin to come back to life – it’s thrilling.
Every tree tells a story. The other day I saw a coffee table made by cutting a section from a very large tree. You could look at the record of the tree’s life in the rings and even see hints of difficult growing seasons. A tree’s rings document its years of growth. And each tree’s branches tell of its efforts to find sunlight in the forest.
Trees are unique. Some are tall, and some short, some skinny and some stocky. Some trees stand alone, others in dense forests. Some trees grow to become huge in the shelter of the valley, and in remote places where they can avoid the lumberman’s axe. Some high on the ridge top show their resilience in facing the elements.
Last summer I found one such tree along the Blue Ridge Parkway not far from Mt. Pisgah. It was short and twisted, a large trunk with few branches, each tentative yet lively in the wind. But even in that old tree life persevered as new growth emerged. I sat for a long time admiring its persistence. I couldn’t help wondering what that old tree might say if it could speak.
I could almost hear the old tree saying in a quiet voice: “Here I am. I may not be as pretty as I would like, but I’m here. And I plan to stay here for a while. And look closely and you’ll see that even my wrinkles provide shelter for the birds and animals. Life is not easy, but its not that complicated either. It is one day at a time, sunlight and rain, spring and fall, year after year. It’s good to be alive.”
I thought of that old tree. Its branches rustle in the breeze with a flexibility and a beauty I often miss in my well planned life. The leaves easily interact with differences, air and water, cold and heat, and the tree provides a hospitality that is humbling. Strong roots nourish the tree, roots that go deep and have been there for a long time. That tree was tenacious in its hold on life. I thought of all the changes that the tree had experienced over the years. And how seemingly patient it seemed to be with the changing seasons and weather. And how it must feel with those noisy chickadees sitting there on its branch chirping incessantly. The tree had a strength and a peace that was palpable.
It’s no wonder that Proverbs 3:18 can liken wisdom to a “tree of life,” or that the writer of Genesis chose the tree as the image for ideal life in God’s fellowship.
Or that poets write about trees, and photographers try to capture their beauty on film, and composers in music. Each tree whispers its own message, tells a story, maybe even preaches a sermon to those willing to listen. If the created world does declare the glory of God as John Calvin asserted, I think the trees are right there in the front of the chorus. And there is no better time of year to step outside and listen. Try it sometime. You might be amazed at what you hear.
- Dent Davis,Pastor
Tryon Presbyterian Church