Joyce Kilmer penned the inspirational words, “I think I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.” Trees have captivated me as long as I remember.
As a boy of five or six, I remember climbing a tree at my auntʼs and uncleʼs home in southwest Michigan. I loved the smell. Too young to know tree families like conifers or deciduous at the time, I only knew the aroma was intoxicating as it is to this day. I suspect now it was a spruce of some sort. The moment I reached the peak, I was on top of the world! I was taller than anyone or nearly anything within sight, except the house. I made myself comfortable standing on its limbs. The tree and I were one! I was the tree, as I felt myself move in unison swaying on top of the world with the breeze. I also recall my mother’s displeasure with the sap on me and my clothes when I came back down to join others on the ground.
To this day, though in my 60’s, I still love climbing trees; not so much for the sense of being on top of the world, but rather feeling closer to the tree that I choose to scale. The understanding of being conjoined with a tree embraces my being whether I climb or merely embrace a tree as it calls to my soul.
Trees captivate and renew my soul, no matter how weary it may be from the inundation of the world around me. It’s not just the striking beauty of fall colors, spring budding, or full flourishing greens of summer that claim my being. It’s more the ethereal quality of a tree’s spirit emerging from its very essence that transforms the fatigued soul to a state of utter bliss.
Physicists explain that matter is neither created nor destroyed, only transformed in state. That being said, my spirit, at death, will fly free. But my ashes, molecules, my soul, in the end, will recombine with the earth to nourish a tree. At least I hope so.
Native Americans say the turkey epitomizes the truth of giving proclaiming the spirit of the “give-away.” That may be so, but trees personify a giving spirit too; giving its leaves to nourish and rebuild the earth, holding precious water so it may be sipped as nectar by nearby plants, offering fruit to sustain the squirrels, sequesters carbon dioxide to detoxify the atmosphere, and emits oxygen so humans may breathe. And, what does the tree ask in return? The solitary ancient one never asks for anything in return.
I wish to embrace the soul of the tree. May I energetically nourish the earth as I walk upon her and may the cells and molecules of my body do the same when this body is finished. May I support those around me as I can. May I do my part to help sustain the life around me mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
Trees are the magnets of the natural world that draw me in. The smell of pine, the crunch of leaves beneath my feet in the fall, the squeak of snow in the forests of winter, the smell of earth and new tree buds in the spring, and the burst of leaves in the summer, all declare their abundant joy and thankfulness for life itself. Trees embrace my very essence of being.
With a tribute to Joyce Kilmer, “Prose is written by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.”