Strong, twisted, wizened trees withstand fierce storms and weather long winters. They gift shade to many and bring smiles to the kids who climb them. They give their breath that we humans may breathe. They are great, beautiful, noble in an unassuming way. Saplings see these and desire to be so; though young, they can scarcely wait to grow so tall, to be strong and wise. But they cannot yet weather the fierce storms or the long winters, and to be subjected to such tempests and seasons would be lethal. At the risk of drowning themselves, they cannot drink the massive droughts which the large oaks guzzle with ease. They cannot withstand the heat of the sun as it strikes them, the light which the massive trees can endure with their thick trunks and canopies of leaves. They must allow their roots time to grow, their limbs time to reach, their leaves time to spread, their forms time to be sculpted. The training comes from the wind, the rain, the sun, the cold and the heat, the regeneration and the decline.
Does the strong beauty of the old trees come from the mystery of all they have seen? from enduring the many storms and winters? from joyfully giving of their breath that others may breathe?* from enduring the heat of the sun in order to give shade to those who would come requesting shelter and a peaceful rest? from the honor of joining limbs with many others to create forests and all that they contain?
I’ve been thinking about trees, forests, a lot lately. There is much to learn from them. More wisdom and stories than anyone could gain – treasure beyond comprehension! So much hidden, awaiting contemplation, awaiting someone to ask, that they may tell their stories.
*I wonder about this especially in Hong Kong, as the trees along the spine of the island (the “Dragon’s Back”) breathe in air which is polluted and poisonous to them. I like to think about them doing that knowingly, as they view giving us clean air as one of their main missions, despite our pollution of the air. It is in that idea, at least, that I see God in it all: the trees, a reflection of his unconditional love and generosity; the environment, a complex web of mutually life-giving relationships between all of creation; men and women, the ones meant to be caretakers, and partakers in the beauty of it all. I like that thought, of a pure place, something closer, perhaps, to what it was, and maybe what it will be. I am tremblingly inspired by this unspeakable beauty, which is among God’s masterpieces: Regeneration, Restoration, Renewal. This is the trademark of his kingdom coming. It is a contant process in my own life, internally. I love to watch its mark on a grander, external scale, on communities, or entire cities, and peoples, and nature.