“Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.”~Rabindranath Tagore.
I remember as a child making a determined effort to get my untidy room under control. I knew I was the one who needed to change my ways, and when I was finished I made a poster with a positive message, and displayed it proudly on my wall. ‘A place for everything, and everything in its place!’ My helpful brother came along and decided to amend the message so it more correctly ended: ‘and everything’s not in its place!’ He knew better than me that in no time my natural untidiness would reassert itself. That’s older brothers for you.
We waste a lot of time thinking that we have control over people and events, and then getting upset when we discover the truth: our control only extends a certain distance from our core. The minute that we try to change other people to fit our needs, or expect events to fall nicely into place, we will be disappointed. In my very short experience at hosting events at my new place of abode, my plans have usually included eating outside. For one thing, I love my little yard, and for another, my living-dining area is not large. And of course, on most of those occasions the weather has refused to cooperate, being too hot, too cold, or too windy! And despite that, everything has worked out well.
Trees have been on my mind this week. I now live in a neighborhood of trees, and I am far more conscious of my natural surroundings. I see when the sun rises through my bathroom window; I hear the birds outside the door (a brooding dove is perched on its nest in the tree outside my gate), and the wildflower seed bomb we planted is sending up interesting looking sprouts. I swear one leaf looks like a ganja leaf – don’t tell anyone! But the trees are everywhere, trees of all kinds.
One of the little sadnesses of living in this new haven, is the knowledge that my mother would have loved it. She would have loved to see the garden, she would have discovered potential that I did not see. Right now there is an orchid sitting on the tree with about ten blooms laying in wait for the right moment to appear. But even though my mother is not available by phone or email, I must say that I find the dead to be much noisier than I expected. I can still have a conversation with her, can know exactly what she would say. They say so long as there is someone alive who remembers you, you will never die. I can see how true that is.
But there is something else about trees. Not just that they produce oxygen while taking carbon dioxide out of the air. Not just that they provide shade and shelter and fruits and wood and pulp and paper. Not just that they provided the means for our ancestors to create tools and tables, chairs and boats and thus the vessels to explore the world. The tree’s attitude to life can provide more lessons than the books they produce.
Trees stand tall and proud, pulling water up and distributing it to every branch and leaf. But when times are turbulent and strong winds blow, they don’t try to stand up to the buffeting breezes. They bend and bow, not too proud to lay low until the storm passes. When the temperature drops they get ready for the winter, and let their magnificent leaves change color and fall, then stand there just as graceful and elegant in their stark nakedness, their slender branches reaching upwards to the sun. And just when you would be tempted to believe they are dead, little shoots of hope and promise sneak out from under the dry bark.
The tree doesn’t panic when times are rough. The tree doesn’t complain when man mistreats. If permitted, the tree will continue to do its own thing, let the loud angry forces do what they will. Have you ever tried to get rid of a tree? A neighbor of mine once tried to chop down an ackee tree. He wanted to place a shed in that spot. Every time he tried, the ackee tree kept sprouting. Miami had its coldest winter ever, the ackee tree bounced back. In silent determination, the tree did what it was born to do.
There are times when it is easy to lose hope in mankind, to be distressed and disgusted by the manifestations of greed, the mistreatment of the poor and the vulnerable. And while we wait on the moral arc of the universe to correct, we remember what MLK Jr told us, which is that although it is long, it bends towards justice. There are many signs of hope and spring out there. There are many green sprouts that are organizing and making their presence known. There are many persistent trees that refuse to be poisoned or cut down. Stay positive, and keep sharing those uplifting reminders of the core values that we share.
I heard this week of an African writer who has written a ‘manifesto’ dedicated to her friend’s daughter, teaching her what it means to be a feminist. One of her statements is: “Where there is equality, resentment does not exist.” We have a long way to get there in this world, to eliminate all of the obstacles to equal opportunity for all of humankind, but there are enough glimmers of hope that we just may be on the right path.
This Friday morning I hope that you can see enough of nature to remind you of the persistence of life. I hope you can realize that just like a tree, we can withstand the storms, the droughts, and the sun beating down on our heads. And I hope that you are still able to hear those who have moved on to the next plane of existence, for they still have stories to be told.
Have a wonderful weekend, family!