The Value of a Tree, You and Me

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Recently, the news reported those who live among trees will breathe air up to 25%  richer with oxygen. Trees nourish us and remain a daily reminder of God’s love for people. Even in the midst of cement city, a tree refreshes weary eyes and lifts our spirit.                                                                         A tree that may in summer wear,                                                                            A nest of robins in her hair…    

House hunting in the suburb sprawl, my second time around, I became obsessed with finding a home with a view- of trees.  Trees above the roofs.  I wasn’t alone.

Walking down the old Sac T street area after work one day, a young man sat on the porch steps stroking a cat sprawled across his back.

“I love to look at all the beautiful trees and little homes on your street,” I smiled.

“We all moved here for the tree-lined streets.” He didn’t skip a beat. I understood.

                         I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree…

For me, the love of trees really burst into my psyche with the lovely stanzas by American poet, Joyce Kilmer. My 4th grade class was required to memorize his poem and recite it aloud… a tree who looks at God all day and lifts her leafy arms to pray. (Yes, public school.)

Living ten years in my first house, a new development where none on our cul-de-sac could grow trees, appreciation for nature heightened with each neighborly conversation. We’d  scope our barren fencelines and commiserate. “My three birch trees died”…”My maple couldn’t grow. I’ve tried multiple types–they all die.” And remember, no trees, no birds.

One afternoon relocated in my second home, I pulled up to my shady haven to construction crews and whirring sounds. A large truck blocked my driveway. Suddenly my stomach felt empty as I looked up at the large hot blue sky, once laced by pine branches from my vantage point. Two large stumps remained on my neighbor’s front lawn where once stood gorgeous Redwoods I adored.

“Why did you cut them down?”  I later asked my new neighbor in the midst of mass remodeling. “Oh, they were making cracks in the cement.  And they were old nasty trees anyway.  We knew you wouldn’t like it.”

“I used to covet those trees and wished they were mine.”

“Well, we wish we could have moved them over to your property.”

Sometimes I don’t understand how we all have such different values of beauty and nature.  Why am I so upset! ?

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Working with incarcerated youth, one summer day a young woman showed me her wrists,  slashed and healing. The scar lines reflected her self-esteem. I pointed out the window to the graceful branches of a  tree dangling its leaves like a beautiful fringed blouse.

“See that tree? Isn’t it a beauty?” Together we gazed at its weighted limbs and peaceful presence. “Would you cut a branch off that tree?”  She silently stared as it’s shadows silhouetted and cooled the walls.

“No. It brings us shade and pleasure, just by being near it. You are far more beautiful and complex a creation of God? Cut yourself? Your worth is priceless.”

Her face relaxed. A word of truth, conviction. An added positive to overcome the negative messages in her head, her past, one few of us encounter.

Senseless, difficult things happen in life. And we ask God to help us all live together and continue to value each other even when the things we value may be so different.

The  Psalmist in Psalm 73 had been plagued all day long in his attempts to live above the evil he saw around him, the things that didn’t make sense. Sometimes there is no place to go here where our feet are grounded in dirt. But then we found relief in simple beautiful ways.

I stop writing and just gaze at the sunshine beaming off the ash leaves dancing in the wind. Or the heavier pine branches swaying nearby, their pinecones positioned to please the squirrels scampering busy at work and play. Gazing at the beauty of nature is always one simple way of escape to dwell on the positive in spite of the political and business news, the drama, the illness, and troubles that court us from all sides.

Times with God affords peace and a time to offer to Him all the situations only He can control or tend. Times spent sharing life and praying with those we love relieves burdens. Reading the Word brings stability. Gratefulness, from seeking to be thankful for the goodness and beauty we do possess and know of, acts as branches blocking the ugly and senseless people and acts beyond our mental and emotional capacity to comprehend. Thanking God for nature and resting our eyes, our soul and spirit from too much bombardment from every direction, political, social, business, medical….

Today I thank God for the intrinsic value of a tree, free for all socioeconomic groups. Trees that provide nesting places for the songbirds, food for the squirrels and a haven for our soul and spirit.

“When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me, until I entered the sanctuary of God….” verse 17

“Yet, I am always with you, you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel and afterward, you will take me into glory…My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. ”  v 26