Tuesday, September 23, 2014

It was a magnificent pine with large branches spreading out and shading nearly our whole back yard. The lofty pine stood high above our home and could be identified from several blocks away. I never saw a bird's nest among the massive boughs but quite a variety of birds took temporary shelter among the needled branches. Even hawks came to perch in the expanse of our tree to look down upon a potential feast of sparrows, finches, pigeons and morning doves.

A year ago this month that glorious pine tree was toppled and given by drips and drabs as firewood to friends; an invasion of the California Fivespined Ips beetle (sounds creepy) had drained the life from our noble tree. Everyone visiting for the first time since its destruction are so surprised by its absence. Our yard went into shock; the loss of an expansive covering of shade left all the plants in the backyard gasping for dear life. We feel a bit unprotected as well when the sun beats down hot as we work about the yard. I miss looking up into its massive, cool, dark branches and imaging myself up in the mountains.

What dramatic changes come about when a large tree is removed! Our yard continues to adapt. Some plants had to be moved while others slowly made the adjustment, perking up and blooming as if nothing had changed. But there has been a great change and the increased intensity of light and heat bears witness to the change.

Those who know me well are quite aware of my passion for trees due to the numerous pictures of trees they must sift through in order to view my vacation photos. As I grieve that old, but impressive, pine tree I am reminded of what it is like when we move out from under the shadow of the Lord Almighty. In Psalm 91:1 it says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” When I move out from under the shelter provided by the Creator of the universe, I am vulnerable to the pressures of this world, I become unprotected and weary. It is in His shelter I find rest from the hot breath of the world seeking to consume me. It is in His shelter I find the comfort and safety; here I am strengthened to go on.

I grew up in a hundred wooded acre (unlike Pooh's one hundred acre wood). There were 100 trees on the acre sheltering the little house my uncles built for our family. Trees were my friends. My grandparents lived next door and between our properties there was a wooded lot where the sheep grazed. I mourned any tree that had to be removed and begged my grandparents to please not cut down any trees. Well into my adult years when I'd return for a visit I could tell which trees were missing; I had memorized each and everyone.

There was a large cedar with a door-like gap through the branches on one side just tall enough for me to stoop and pass through. As a child I would often hide there, not to be found, but to escape reality and live in my imaginary world. I remember well its cool, shadowy interior protecting me from the sun and offering the life-giving kind of comfort of green things. Trees are like that; they seem so strong and reliable. But I have since learned trees are vulnerable too. The shelter of the Most High is the only shelter I can count on, and for that I am grateful.

Yes I can go on and on about trees, but among the trees I feel closer to God. Two stanzas of Joyce Kilmer's poem, Trees, sums this up quite nicely.

I think I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree. . . .
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.”

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