Saturday, December 12, 2009

For All the Trees I've Known and Loved

From the time I was six and ran away to spend the night under the sheltering branches of an avocado tree, to those moments when I find a really big beauty and slide down to settle in the lap of its roots and meditate – I love what trees do for me. Like the mythical World Tree that links the heavens, earth and the underworld, their vibrant energy breathes life into my body and soul. Trees heal.
But as my readers know, I harbor an inner Grinch over Christmas, the mass slaughter of trees. The decorating of trees with glitter and cheap shiny paraphernalia. There was a time when the ancient practice of tree worship had a seductive hold on humankind. Trees were linked to immortality and fertility and their worship emerged in various forms. Some cultures used trees to capture the demon that held a tormented soul in its grip. From Africa to the Northern Plains states, pilgrims traveled thousands of miles to visit Wishing Trees, whose secret locations are carefully handed down from generation to generation.
Despite the slashing edits to the Bible by Constantine, there remain references to the power of trees. Jesus said there were five trees in paradise, which never lost their leaves and granted immortality. St Thomas alluded to the five manifestations of greatness to the five words for mind; sanity, reason, mindfulness, imagination and intention. Some believed that these five manifestations were somehow linked to the meaning of the five trees.
This tree worshipper gave her daughter a pear tree for her wedding. But even today, although my feelings have mellowed somewhat about Xmas, I still suffer a mild guilt from bringing that living green inside. I know that tree farms make a difference and there is the added blessing that many of these farms tithe a portion of the monies to non-profits.
The ornaments Chloe and I accumulated are a different story. While searching for some documents, the memories of Xmases past came tumbling out of a small box high on a shelf. Worn with pieces missing, this odd collection is no less dear to me for its tattered condition. It has the patina that only love can give. A seashell Chloe had found on Venice Beach; a pair of wooden clothespin dolls – the boy painted black with a crooked red pipe cleaner halo. The girl is dressed in a long gold skirt and has a strapless top knotted in the front. Her long blonde hair sprouts straight up from her head. Miniature dolls that belonged to my mother - a fireman in a felt suit and red cap; a baby with hand crocheted dress are followed by a clay heart from Chloe’s Waldorf School days. It was broken in half. As I held the two pieces, I thought about my daughter, who will be spending Xmas in Lebanon with her husband. (The good news - I’ll be seeing her before Xmas and after.)
The brightly hand painted clown hat we used to cap our Xmas trees is going on the plane with me this holiday season. A lovely touchstone, a token of deep connections that exist across distance and time. Perhaps, there will be a tree near the house where I’m staying. If so, I intend to give it the hat in honor of all the trees I’ve loved and will love; the wild, the old, the new and those that are still a seed.


  1. That was a very nice read about trees thank you for sharing that it was an enjoyable read.

    The holiday season brings in many trees.

    Best regards,
    Tom Bailey

  2. Thanks for the Christmas love note to trees and your kinship to them. I relate, having had a sycamore tree as my childhood safe place. Mississippi still has plenty of trees, but I mourn even our regular "mindless scalpage," as I call it. It especially hurts to see the grand old oaks fall, done as a precursor to erecting subdivisions, malls, whatever. If they replant at all, it's with scrubby things that only vaguely pass for trees. "They paved Paradise; put up a parking lot." A happy Christmas to you, my friend, wherever that hat may rest. --Barbara G.

  3. Ah, Sam! synchronicity! I just wrote about a Christmas tree on my FB page in respone to a comment by an old friend who said..."I remember the first time I picked you up at your house, it was during the summer in high school, and your family still had the fully-trimmed Christmas tree up, but all the needles had long since dropped. I looked in mild disbelief and thought, "cool !"
    My response was..."Yes, we were the coolest family in town, I think. It had been a particularly beautiful tree that year and nobody could bear to dismantle it. There were antique wax roses and Steiff animal toys as well as the whole collection of precious keepsakes that we cherished. Decorating the tree was a wonderful father had a Russian beaver fur hat ... See Morethat he wore especially for the occasion, and we sang Christmas carols as we decorated! Our trees were a work of art...We always found the perfect tree,over 6 feet tall, with lovely balanced limbs...this was very important to the final effect!
    I don't remember that first time you picked me up, Craig, but I do fondly remember the fun we had together, especially when we arrived at the Newport Jazz Festival the morning after the riot!!!

  4. I too have fond memories of trees, living and dead.
    I had many Christmas trees when I was a child and I continued them thru my daughter's childhood. But we always made a point to buy a tree from a Christmas Tree farm. Just like most of our crops, they are responsibly grown and cut. One of my ex husband's summer jobs in Wiscosin was on a Tree farm.
    I no longer have a live tree. I buy a norfolk or a rosemary in a pot and plant it in my mother's garden when the season is over. Being an artist, some years I paint then decorate an old branch in a terra cotta pot.
    Here's to 2010