Tree Secrets

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Of winter’s lifeless world each tree
Now seems a perfect part;
Yet each one holds summer’s secret
Deep down within its heart.
~ Charles G. Stater

 

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Enduring the dark and quiet winter months, the trees appear to doze deep while standing stark naked against the sky, roused only by the whipping of the winds and when breaking under a heavy coat of ice.

It is uneasy sleep.

When I look close now, I can tell:
they conceal summer secrets under their skin, the sap flows thick and sluggish, there is a barely palpable pulse in those branches.

A heart pumps within, readying.

 

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Blooming into Flame

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All the love you will ever feel
you have always carried within you

The pellet you think love is
blooms into stone,
into flame, into glass
~Hannah Stephenson from “Sap Season”

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The last remaining cherry tree on this farm, a Royal Anne, has stood between house and barn for over ninety years, bearing well some years, and other years yielding only a hand full of fruit.  This spring was a bumper crop but followed by a hot dry summer, the old tree looks stressed, its branch joints oozing resin in response.  These amber-like secretions are hard and glass-like but change subtly day by day.

It is this tree’s troubles made manifest.  Its sap blood bursts with crystalline flame, blooming with a hidden love from its buried roots. Such love has always been there, deep inside, but in its thirsty anguish, the tree weeps to reflect the sun.

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At Home

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There are no creatures you cannot love.
A frog calling at God
From the moon-filled ditch
As you stand on the country road in the June night.
The sound is enough to make the stars weep
With happiness.
In the morning the landscape green
Is lifted off the ground by the scent of grass.
The day is carried across its hours
Without any effort by the shining insects
That are living their secret lives.
The space between the prairie horizons
Makes us ache with its beauty.
Cottonwood leaves click in an ancient tongue
To the farthest cold dark in the universe.
The cottonwood also talks to you
Of breeze and speckled sunlight.
You are at home in these
great empty places
along with red-wing blackbirds and sloughs.
You are comfortable in this spot
so full of grace and being
that it sparkles like jewels
spilled on water.
~Tom Hennen “A Country Overlooked”

 

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This cottonwood of five senses stands alone and grace-filled in our lower field, slowly blowing its leaves. It will strip bare in preparation for winter, its skeleton stark in the morning light.  The old farmer called this tree his “Balm of Gilead” for its healing qualities, his fingertips rubbing its honey-like sap that weeps from its branches, a scent of sweetness clinging like an aura to him. Now its branches snap in the wind and its leaves twirl down brittle-yellow and crunchy under my boot.  It heals me from a distance, and up close.  It calls me home.  Like a balm, I can nearly taste its honey.

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photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

Lenten Grace — Yet Rise it Shall

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

I lift mine eyes, but dimm’d with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the fallen leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall–the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.
~Christina Rossetti from “A Better Resurrection”

I remember panicking as a small child when my mother would help me put on or take off a sweater with a particularly tight turtleneck opening, as my head would get “stuck” momentarily until she could free me.  It caused an intense feeling of being unable to breathe or see, literally shrouded.  I was trapped and held captive by something as innocuous as a piece of clothing.

That same feeling still overwhelms me at times, and not only when I wrestle with pulling something snug over my head.  I’m still held captive, but not by a turtleneck.  I’m frozen in a winter of my flaws and deficiencies, bruised and fallen and fading in my struggles to be freed.

There is no salvage without new life quickening within me.  There is no freedom without spring sap flowing, His life blood rising in what is left of my dried husk.

And rise it shall — the confining shroud discarded and cast aside.

Now, once again,  I can breathe.