Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Lovely Trees

Last weekend, I drove from my home in Williamsport, Pennsylvania to visit my mom in Ellwood City. Williamsport is in the middle of the state…. toward the north. Ellwood City is about an hour from the Ohio border so the trip involves driving across a big chunk of Pennsylvania on Interstate 80.

Interstate 80 is bordered by mountains almost the whole length of the drive. The trip is scenic in any season, sometimes breathtakingly so. Usually  my attention is honed in on  driving defensively….checking my mirrors, keeping an eye on the trucks and the hot shots trying to drive 20 or 30 mph over the speed limit. But on this trip, my eyes were repeatedly drawn to the hillsides.

They were varying, blended shades of a dark, rusty, tannish, blackish brown. They reminded me of the color of sienna, umber and burnt umber crayons; drab colors that made a  perfect background for the few trees whose leaves are still almost shockingly vivid and aglow. Bright, bright yellows; the crayon  you might pick to draw the yolk of an egg. Almost illuminated. Glowing...shimmery.  And the RED ones.  Capital letter red. Just the most breathtaking shades of red. I shook my head and exclaimed  “wow”a time or two, amazed at the splendor. And really….the colors could only be described with words like splendor.

It was raining a lot of the way but even the dark mistiness served as a contrast to those iridescent trees.  

There is a message there someone. Some spiritual implication.  Keith has always been fond of saying that things in the natural are reflections of profound spiritual truths. As above, so below. I can’t quite put my finger on it...but something is there hiding. It’s nagging at me like a name I can’t remember, the words to a song, a memory that is almost, but not quite clear.

Some things that come to mind….

The quote from Ann Voskamp, a blogger/author I've been reading lately. In one post she said she told her husband, the Farmer

…..that it was brave, the way the trees made dying look glorious.

And the controversy in the news and Christian circles recently about the young woman with incurable, terminal, late stage brain cancer. She chose to take her own life before the ravages of the disease plunged her into a real living hell. Some folks say she is brave. Other folks say she is a coward.

I’m inclined to say that it’s easy to take the high road when it’s not your path to walk.

And then another thought that is a game changer, a different perspective on this process we witness every fall as we sigh and lament that “winter is just around the corner.” Leaves do not just fall from the trees. The trees actively shed them.

Apparently, when the days start getting shorter and colder, trees start to seal off the place where leaf stem meets tree branch with a row of cells called "abscission" cells. The tree could not survive the winter with leaves attached because of moisture loss and such so the leaves have to go.

So really, it is the leaf that dies….not the tree. Come spring, the tree is good to go and sprouts new leaves. The leaf that fell in the fall is gone. Hmmmmmm….

If the natural hints at the spiritual, what do the trees and their colorful, dying leaves tell us?

We have one of those trees with tenacious leaves that hang on and on (and on) in our front yard. It is an ornamental pear tree that we planted when it was about the same height as I am now.  They are slow growers but  it is probably 20 feet tall….and a lovely, sturdy (yet elegant) tree. Our neighbor has a much bigger one in her front yard. They seem to be in sync and their leaves are still there late into the fall.

Our pear trees are still all green with only the tips of a few leaves showing some reddish tinges at the edges. Keith grumbled the other day that he will be raking leaves in mid November.  

The world is tired, the year is old,The faded leaves are glad to die...~Sara Teasdale, "November"

Not the leaves on our pear trees..... 

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