The first emotional outburst occured in 1989, when I came home from college for the weekend. Driving down our familiar street, my warm mood turned to astonishment when I glimpsed the barren front yard before me. My beloved Sugar Maples were gone, completely removed with only rough hewn stumps and sawdust among the grass to remind me of their pleasant existence. Mom & Dad were out when I returned and so, I had to wait for an explanation. In the meantime, I sat on my bedroom floor and wept. Those trees were more than just a home for many birds and squirrels...more than just a welcome canopy of shade over summer picnics...even more than a spectacular crimson centerpiece on Sarah Street in the glory of autumn. They were pillars of my childhood.
My cousin & sister in front of one of the Sugar Maples many moons ago. 1987 maybe
Often providing a secret hideaway for adventurous climbers, my friends & I probably logged hundreds of hours on those sturdy branches. And many of my world travels originated on the three branches dubbed, “the reading chair”...often going to the Eastern desert in Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series or the Swiss Alps as Heidi’s story came alive or even the cries of the Yukon wild through the pen of Jack London..; yes, that Maple gifted me with a fantastic private library. As a bonus, the leaves provided a blind, of sorts, allowing me to check out the goings-on of the neighborhood undetected. I loved that. And while my sister & I often played “house” indoors, just as often we would set up our dwelling in the trees. Hmm..such happy memories.
Last year, as my husband & I debated about where to send our children to school, I made a visit to a christian school some distance from home. It was an emotional time for various reasons, with the chief stressors being our economic situation and discontent with our public schools. As I spoke with the kind lady giving me a tour of the school, I was holding back tears as I knew this was the place I wanted my children to be, but, financially, was it possible?
Close-up of leaves of the Corkscrew Willow
After the tour, I spent some moments just walking alone on the empty school grounds, admiring their gardens and the way the sunlight rested upon the stone walls. A soft tree caught my attention and I made my way over to the Corkscrew Willow for closer inspection. Maybe it was the breeze or the way the air smells in summer,... but it was here, standing silently by this tree with curled leaves that God’s peace came to me. The peace that passes all understanding is profound... a moment of clarity in which God’s grace indicated that all shall be well. And it was ... and is. I’m very thankful our children are able to attend that school.
Corkscrew Willow Tree
Oddly enough, I had my camera out a few weeks back to photograph this willow and even though my photos are nothing special, imagine my surprise when I arrived at the school four days later and noticed the tree was gone. Cut down to the ground with the rest removed from sight. I wept. I saw the gardener a bit later working in the same area, putting down stones where the tree used to stand. I told him I missed the little tree and he said it had to come down because the roots were going to tear up the sidewalk.
I believe God’s grace comes to us in many ways in addition to the sacraments... through people, animals, landscapes... yes, even trees.