I bet no-one ever took me for a tree-hugger, did they?
And yet … as I reflect on the nationally trying (Election/Brexit) and loss-filled (too many to mention) year of 2016 that we are shortly to be leaving behind, I realise there is a great and simple truth to trees.
Trees are sanctuaries. Whatever human frailties we have, through all our joys and sorrows, trees stand steadfast. Whatever havoc we may create around ourselves, the roots of trees reach further down beneath the ground and their branches stretch their fingers higher towards the sky.
They bend with the wind, they do not break.
They can withstand either scorching or freezing extremes of temperature.
The cycle of leaf, blossom, fruit, continues unabated and the sap circulates in trees’ systems like our lifeblood circulates in us, bending to the rhythm of the seasons.
Trees are life givers that can feed the world.
Trees provide fuel and shelter when we need it.
Trees can be anything from spindly to magnificent.
Trees can be in a copse, a coppice, a thicket, a plantation, a glade, wood, a forest, an orchard, a jungle, a weald; they can stand proudly alone or be in massed company.
The cycle of the deciduous tree’s life repeated year on year has a structure that reflects the human condition from birth to passing. In spring, the sap rises. The tree begins to green up. The leaves and blooms unfurl, fresh and new. The tree’s energy is growing and strong. In summer, the tree stands tall and proud in its gown of green, embracing the warmth of the sunshine. The autumn brings mellow colour and as the sap falls back to the heart of the tree, the leaves fall gently away, leaving the tree stark but strong against the ravages of winter.
It may look as though the tree is dormant, yet deep within its kernel heart it absorbs the sugar of the seasons, creating a rich residue, ready to come to life again in the spring.
We repeat such patterns many times throughout the living of our days.
When a tree dies, its life is revealed in the whorls of its bark and the rings of its trunk. Every circle tells a story, each notch on the bark is an event in the life of the tree.
Some trees are really special. When you stand beneath the shelter of their branches you feel they can help you to safely let go of troubled, chaotic thoughts. They nurture and support in silent empathy. They are living, breathing beings.
Two trees either side of a path can reach out like arms across a sacred space, drawing you to their embrace. It feels as though they are acting as a channel that reaches high above the planet to draw down comfort, particularly at times of trouble, loss and grief. Twice in my life I have experienced an amazing release of emotion, standing in this ancient energy and letting the trees take my sadness and absorb it into their primordial wisdom, leaving me comforted and calm.
There is an undeniable truth to trees. You know where you are with trees; they will never deceive. Their wisdom is pure.
Listen to the trees. They whisper in the summer breeze that rustles their leaves, and yet they whistle and howl through winter gales. Their moods are many and capricious, just like ours.
Do the trees mourn? What can be sadder than a dripping, dark yew in the graveyard? Yes, the trees can mourn. But the beauty of trees in bloom in the early spring is a matter for deep joy.
Trees care not for politics or religion, though they are God-given. The Tree of Life represents the first true human temptation; the mighty oak tree symbolises the stolid strength of faith.
Collectively, trees represent strength, resilience and solidarity.
A stand of trees high on a hill looks glorious.
A single small sapling reaches for the sky with optimism and conviction that it will one day be great and strong.
You may feel that you are separate from the trees, that they mean nothing to you. But we are all connected. C S Lewis said, “Human beings look separate because you see them walking about separately. But then we are so made that we can see only the present moment. If we could see the past, then of course it would look different. For there was a time when every man was part of his mother, and (earlier still) part of his father as well, and when they were part of his grandparents. If you could see humanity spread out in time, as God sees it, it would look like one single growing thing–rather like a very complicated tree. Every individual would appear connected with every other.”
I send love and good wishes to everyone for a peaceful and healthy 2017.
Stay connected with each other, value your friends and your family … and if you feel so moved, go out and hug a tree …