“My Favorite Talking Tree,” June 25, 2019

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time listening to a tree. You might blame it on age. Or insanity. But I’ve always felt a kinship with Nature that is as real and as binding as anything I feel for flesh and blood.

Maybe you do, too. Maybe we are all born with a hunger to feel sun on our face and wind in our hair and dirt beneath our toes.

It’s not that we love Nature more than we love people. But we believe we’re all in this boat together, all of Creation. We’re all part of the family of God.

Sometimes I like to be with people. And sometimes I like to be alone. But once in a while, I just like to hang out with a tree.

In the Carolinas, where I grew up, there were more trees than people. Or so it seemed to me. Mountains grew thick with evergreens and were speckled with hardwoods that turned red and gold in fall. Valleys were quilted with acres of orchards that bloomed in spring to fill the air with a hailstorm of petals and a heavenly fragrance of apples and peaches and pears.

As a child, two trees were my favorites. The first was a tall hemlock that stood watch over my grandparents’ farm. Its long branches reached to the ground to form a giant umbrella under which I could hide for hours, sheltered from any storm.

My other favorite was an apple tree that grew in a cow pasture beside a railroad track next to the house where I lived with my mother, my stepfather and two brothers. It was a small house, noisy, and at times, unbearable.

Climbing that tree was like going on vacation. Not exactly Disneyland, but close. I’d perch on a branch, swaying in the wind, tossing apples at cows and waiting for a train. When the engine roared by, I’d pump my arm and the engineer would blow the whistle just for me.

But mostly what I did in those trees was just be still and listen. To the sigh of wind. The rustle of branches. The song of birds. The rumble of thunder. And, yes, the mooing of cows.

Trees like to talk. If we give them a chance, they’ll tell us things we need to know: That the world is a wondrous place waiting to be discovered and enjoyed; that there is shelter in every storm; that everything on the Earth is part of God’s family; and most of all, we are loved.

I learned those things from many sources — family and friends and life. But in some ways, I learned them by being still and listening to a tree.

My next favorite tree was a beckoning oak that wrapped its branches around the house where I raised my children. I helped the kids climb it when they were small and have since done the same for their kids. I loved that tree, and listened to it closely for almost 50 years.

Months ago, as I sat in an upstairs bedroom rubbing Flexall on my knees, I could swear I heard the oak whisper, “It’s time for you to move on.”

For one sobering moment, I thought it meant that I was dying. Imagine my relief to realize it only meant that my knees were tired of the stairs.

So we sold that house and moved to a one-level place in a nearby valley. It was hard to leave the old place and the oak. I’m hoping the new owners and their children (and maybe their grandkids someday) will love it and listen to it just as we did.

My new favorite tree is a flowering plum that welcomed us with a profusion of blooms the day we moved in. It’s a lot younger than my other favorite trees, but it likes to talk. I listen closely as the wind rattles its limbs and rustles its leaves.

It tells me things I need to remember, things I taught my children and hope to teach my grandchildren: That the world is a wondrous place waiting to be discovered and enjoyed; that there is shelter in every storm; that everything on the Earth is part of God’s family; and most of all, we are loved.

Listen. Can you hear it?

Comments

  1. Karrie says:

    Takes me back to another time when I could climb that apple tree without fear of hurting it! My current favorite is a neighborhood “sentinal” in our backyard… love her.

  2. Davey Myers says:

    Oh Sharon…you did it again. Took me back more years than I will tell. Can’t tell you what kind of tree mine was but it was at the lake where I felt more free than at any other time in my life. I wasn’t a doll girl but Rosy was my tom boy doll. I would climb my tree in the front yard with Rosy and tie a hammock (scarf) for her to lie in and just be one with my tree and breeze and sounds of the lake that I loved. Keep enjoying yours and take care of those knees!

  3. Kate Sciacca says:

    Ours was an avocado tree… when I was six I was certain it was a mile high in the sky…. I was shocked a few years ago to see that it was maybe 25 or 30 feet. But it was a fine climbing tree….

    These days tree climbing is considered much too dangerous for kids…. I learned this from a busy body several years ago when two of my boys were climbing a fairly harmless looking tree at the local ballpark (they were more interested in the tree than their brother’s talent as a pitcher…) – anyway, I was properly scolded by the busy body who threatened to contact the police (or CPS or somebody…) if I didn’t immediately order them down from the tree and “watch them more carefully!”
    Oh yeah…. I obeyed immediately 😉😉. Mmmm hmmmm….

  4. Janet R. Mann says:

    I used to climb a cherry tree that was in our side yard. I would sit up there for hours, just listening to the sounds around me and eating cherries and spitting the pits at any thing that moved! Thx for sharing your memories with us. Sparks memories in our own lives.

  5. Patsy Styers says:

    Thanks for such a moving portrait of your young life. It reminded me of when I was a young girl living with my family on a farm in Arkansas … what fun we all had. I look forward to your columns.

  6. Sally Merrill says:

    As always, another beautiful story and wonderful memories. I remember a Mimosa tree in the back yard of the house we moved to when I was 5. It was low and wide and easy to climb and fun to play with the flowers that were like tassels! My other favorite tree was one we planted in the backyard of the first home my husband and I bought the year after we were married. It was a Maple that had come up in a pot on the back porch of my parents house after my Daddy died. We planted it to remember him and even though we moved from that little house long ago and have moved to a different town, I always ride by when I’m back in town to visit. I’m happy to report that 41 years later it is still thriving and is taller than the house now! It wasn’t big enough to climb when we lived there but I like to think there have been some children climbing it and enjoying their adventures in that tree!

  7. Phyllis S says:

    It is a shame that no one is quiet and “listening to the trees” today. Children are missing out on so much. Thanks for sharing your thoughts/memories with us. This might be my favorite one, but I say that every week.

  8. Maryharrington says:

    Love this. I love to sit on the porch listen and watch the trees and submerge myself in the sweetness of the freshness. Love your stories we all have them don’t we.💖

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