I love trees. In my younger days, there wasn’t a tree I wouldn’t climb to explore and try to get its view of the world.
I mostly stick to the ground these days, but I still love learning about trees, photographing them, planting them, and tending them.
One of my favorite tree books is the classic A Natural History of Trees by Donald Peattie. His descriptions of each species are part botany, part poetry, but all love for these amazing creations. Here is part of his description of the white pine (the tree pictured above, which graces the front yard of the church): “The white pine may be distinguished at a glance, almost as far as it can be seen, by its pagoda-like outline and habit of growth. The whorled branches grow in well-separated tiers, as if they formed successive platforms of a tower. When the male flowers bloomed in these illimitable pineries, thousands of miles of forest aisle were swept with the golden smoke of this reckless fertility, and great storms of pollen were swept from the primeval shores far out to sea and to the superstitious sailor seemed to be “raining brimstone” on the deck.”
In the wake of the March nor’easters, in addition to many people out of power and heat, the area was littered with the sight of magnificent old trees felled by the high winds. Hundreds of years of slow growth were recklessly thrown to the ground, cut up, chipped up, and carted away. Beyond the temporary inconveniences, it has been a tree-lovers nightmare.
It has a Lenten/Holy Week feel to it. Ashes, wilderness, death – a triumphal moment of beauty on Palm Sunday disintegrated by the end of Friday. Those have all been a part of life inside the church in this season – a journey now reflected in the toppled trees around us. Forces of destruction storm around the world and in the quiet but deep challenges of our daily lives. Such storms stir us, push us, and even topple long and dearly held notions of who God is, who we are, and why we are here.
Yet the story does not end in destruction and disintegration. Outside, with time, a hint of resurrection will be seen in the spaces left by all the fallen trees. Sunlight will find places it hasn’t seen in decades. Long-dormant seeds will spring to life. Reaching for the sun, new future magnificence will begin its slow and steady climb to the sky.
Here in the RPC sanctuary on the first day of this month, the trumpets will sound, and we will hear it said once again – He is risen! Death is not the end. Failure and grief are not the final word. Instead, He is risen with the April-foolish promise that such a resurrection isn’t just for a single body two thousand years ago. We are foolish enough to believe that it is also the way of the entire world – inside the church, out among the trees, and in every part of creation where such new life is so very much needed.
May it be so!