Friday, April 29, 2011

Trees and Prayers For Life~

Grant Wood's first lithograph "Tree Planting Group" honored Arbor Day. It was customary in the early 1930s for children to plant trees on the school grounds in recognition of National Arbor Day. 

National Arbor Day (today!) feels like the appropriate time to acknowledge the beautiful and recently transplanted trees in my backyard. When Jim died I embraced the living he left behind: his fine cat Brian and the trees he had nurtured after transplanting from the family property. Brian of course landed a great home with my brother and family--even if he no longer delivers cigarettes.

The trees, full of life and breath also felt important to re-home. After all, Jim had transplanted, staked, protected, loved these young trees, expecting to see real growth in his lifetime. We spoke about our trees at least once in the months before his death. When I moved into my current home, Mom and Dad gave me a small Maple tree as a house warming gift. "It looked like a stick in the ground," I told Jim "just like yours now." Ten years later, I assured him, my Maple is spectacular and probably 30 feet high. Jim replied, "Trees grow." We laughed in an easy, familiar duet. 


Walter and I transplanted the trees in a loose triangle in my backyard; both symbolic and within my sight lines from the back deck. Convinced that Jim would be happy that I'm now the caretaker of his trees, I find it easy to talk and pray and meditate while admiring my trees. It's very personal and I'm always grateful when I honor a break from the tasks of daily life to do so. Prayer is a gift I've given myself in past months, so humbling to see and feel the Divine in a powerful way.

The Magnolia tree surprised us all when it bloomed, perhaps for the first time. It is a small but sturdy tree with wax-like leaves. Mom remembers giving it to Jim. Rope and stakes always had protected it at his house as it fell in the natural walking path from the driveway to the front door.



The two volunteer trees were raised on the land dear to him. They had been isolated at my parent's place to allow growth. These two, an Oak on the left and a Crabapple to the right, are the result of this tree propagation. In this same conversation, Jim told me his trees would grow bigger than my Maple and also acknowledged how previous owners at least showed the decency to plant one good tree over forty years. Again, we laughed in tandem.

Walter helped me with the transplants on the first day of spring this year. The oak tree taxed us. A man in his mid-80s, Walter tried to pull and dig a well-rooted tree from recently thawed earth. He conceeded to letting me help. Worried that we left the center root behind a wave of relief came when the green leaves busted through the buds and continue to fill the tree into a young but healthy Oak. These trees are in good loving hands, just like Brian the cat. 
Walter Mensch

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