Sunday, December 10, 2017

In the Company of Trees

In some mysterious way woods have never seemed to me to be static things. In physical terms, I move through them; yet in metaphysical ones, they seem to move through me.                           ~John Fowles

The old maple.

I have always found it very satisfying to be in the company of trees. Their solidity suggests strength, their rooted-ness implies stability, their forms define beauty. They are living breathing entities with whom I have shared a communion for as long as I can remember.

I first fell in love, as a small child, with the locusts and the huge maple that grew in our front yard. In May the two locust trees, one on either side of the porch, dropped their sweet, spring-scented catkins. The sticky yellow cases that bore them split and fell, littering the lawn. The maple was an enormous old tree that had a protuberance near its base that we children used as a seat. A sturdy limb reaching out across the lawn held our rope swing and under the board seat was a dusty circle made by our pushing feet where the grass would not grow. In the spring, the tree would drip sweet, sticky sap. In the fall it was crowned with orangey-yellow leaves and in the winter its bare branches wove intricate patterns against a frozen sky.

In later years, I made friends with all the trees in my neighborhood, with the giant maples, the sighing pines, the eerie black locusts that lifted their twisted limbs to the sky. I came to know the elm that leaned over the board railing at the brook, and the sycamore that dipped its toes into the river where it curved around a broad meadow. I sheltered from the rain under the hemlock boughs in the back yard, planted flowers in the rock garden under the big pine outside the kitchen window, leaned against the birch tree at the edge of the lawn to watch the sun fade in the western sky.

Wherever I’ve gone, I’ve made friends with the trees around me. I can wrap my arms around them and feel their strength and immutable-ness when I am sorely in need of a hug, rest my tired back against a sturdy trunk, send wind messages to my distant children via the leaves and whispering boughs, and understand magnificence from their ability to endure.