The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is one of my favorite children’s books. It’s a story about a tree that keeps on giving, and a boy who keeps on taking. Finally, upon becoming an old, the man cuts down the tree to sit on its stump “… and the tree was happy”. Such where were my thoughts traveled today as this ‘old’ man roamed the forest.
Trees have always invoked a sense of reverence in me. Who cannot stand in awe at the base of a thousand-year-old, 300 ft. massive redwood? Imagine the stories these towering, silent witnesses to history could tell of what has passed beneath their limbs over centuries.
Trees are Nature’s quintessential givers. Providing a hodgepodge of lumber, firewood, food, paper, rubber, medicine, etc., and the O2 we inhale, they filter the CO2 we exhale along with that released by environmental and the fossil fuel emissions. In return they require only H2O and nutrients from the soil, both of which they replenish through transpiration and decomposition in death.
Besides giving, trees are role models of strength and adaptation. Rooted in the harsh alkaline soils eastern California’s White Mountains, confirmed to be 4,854 years old, stands Methuselah. An ancient bristlecone pine tree, it’s the world’s second oldest known tree. Nearby, unnamed at protected secret location, is Methuselah’s 5,069-year-old grandfather, the world’s oldest tree . . . imagine the stories this gnarled, ‘elderly’ pair could tell!
Trees epitomize the Scripture “… to have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” – Philippians 4:11. Sprouting wherever their seeds fall to earth, they are surrounded by generations of progeny, conversing with each other in rustles and whispers on the wind. Perhaps trees’ ultimate source of strength, adaptation and ability to give lies in their unchangeable behavior to ever grow towards the sun.
Legend has it there once was a Great Oak tree from which the beams of Christ’s Cross were hewn. Consequently, the Great Oak was paradoxically both cursed and blessed.
Cursed to forever become a Dogwood tree, small with crooked branches, unsuitable for building anything. Blessed with white, cross shaped, four petaled flowers having a cluster resembling a “crown of thorns” at their centers, each petal tipped with a ‘nail dent’ tinged in red, reminiscent of drops of blood spilled at Calvary.
Throughout this Lenten season, this Easter, and beyond may we enjoy the folklore of the Dogwood legend; rejoice in the Resurrection’s ultimate sacrifice; and claim the certainty of the Cross’s gift of Salvation offered . . . and, like the trees that fill our forests . . . may we live each new day giving back, ever growing towards the Son.