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My WNIJ Perspective

The elm tree in moonlight

Do you ever notice the trees in your life—the ones you look to without thinking? When I was a girl, I’d look to the white pines that bordered our road. They reminded me of great kings and queens. I’d look to them when my dad’s headlights flashed a mile away.

The oak I look to several times a day.

Nowadays there’s an oak I look to in the corner of Peterson’s field. Its branches tilt as though a south wind permanently blows. It catches light, especially the golden light the sun throws at slate storm clouds. Sometimes a rainbow. 

Lilac, apple in the foreground. Elm in the background

We have an elm that towers over our barn. The wind rocks her branches, and I see a big woman, her eyes closed, swaying as if to fierce prayers. She throws shadows on the barn and the mares. 

Black walnut

A squirrel runs up a black walnut, across the branches until they become twigs. Then he crosses to the Linden tree, which came from Berlin as a shoot in someone’s boot. I’ve heard an owl speak from that tree and been soothed to sleep by her call. 

Linden tree on the right as you face this.

Christie Purifoy in Placemaker says, “Trees—even in the wilderness—are singing a song, but if we plunge ahead in accompaniment without first stopping to listen, and without letting ourselves be changed by the song, we may find ourselves leaving not beauty but crooked patios and poison ivy and heartbroken tears in our wake.” So today I urge you, look to the trees in your life, let them show you how to leave beauty in your wake.

I’m Katie Andraski and that’s my perspective.

If you’d like to hear me read it on WNIJ, click here.

Elm and maple shadows on the barn

Some More Thoughts about Trees and My Faith

After I finished writing this, I thought about how trees feature in my faith, how the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil tempted humans so much they disregarded God’s request not to eat its fruit. It taught them shame, showed them they were naked. God used animal skins to cover them, so animals died to make clothes for two people who knew they were naked and were ashamed. Was it a leopard that died? A panther? That sleek, fast, big cat? Or maybe it was a horse that galloped across the meadows, nose in the air, coat glittery. God kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden because there was another tree, the Tree of Life. God said if they ate from this tree they would live for ever, which would be miserable for creation, and miserable for them. (Imagine someone like Hitler never dying. Imagine never escaping your darkest days.)

Ash tree stump

Then there’s the other tree, the long stump, branches sheared off, bark rough, that Jesus died on, a sort of tree of life itself, because he broke death right then and there. As N.T. Wright says, it was the day the revolution began.

And as the writer to the Hebrews says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the deveil and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:14 – 15). Even though I am in my sixties, and while I don’t like the idea of dying, I don’t have to be afraid of it, because death is dead. I felt that when my mother, father and brother died. That this was not the last word. No, not the last word. It felt like they were springing out of the grave then, as though time folded from their death day to their rising day. I don’t have to cringe, avoiding the deaths we die before we die.

Black walnut

And then there are the trees planted by the great river, when Jesus’ foot splits the Mount of Olives in two. Their leaves are for the healing of the nations. I think most about these trees–how someday heaven and earth will be joined and the nations healed, all of us healed.

In The Hidden Life of Trees Peter Wohlleben talks about how he thought there were stones covered in moss in a forest, but they turned out to be green wood, left over for the trunk of a tree that had died five hundred years before. He learned that trees have affection for each other, that they help each other, because if one dies, the forest is in danger from wind and sunlight breaking more of them. They spread their branches into each other’s branches to protect each other. He says, “But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment they can live to be very old” (12). They can warn each other of dangerous predators (bugs) by using smell, so they can make their leaves bitter. They are more awake than we realize.

Christie Purifoy’s book

I joined a launch team for Placemaker because I admire her writing and I want to be a good literary citizen. Others’ generosity with my novel, helped me, so I’d like to pass that along.

Besides, her Roots and Sky was a lyrical read about how she and her husband moved to an old farmhouse in Pennsylvania, so I wanted to find out what happens next. Placemaker is a book you curl up with on a rainy day and you are greeted with encouragement about the place you are making in the world. It’s about home making in the best sense of the word. And it’s about trees, so much so, it made me notice the ones in our yard. It inspired this post.

We learn about the places she’s lived, College Station, Chicago, Florida, and Maplehurst. We learn how she made each place a home, planting flowers. She notices the trees in each place, describing their beauty.

This is a quiet read, beautifully written, lyrical. Purifoy wonders how just it is to spend money and time fixing old trees, planting a flower garden, and tuck pointing her house. But she says, “We do the work of heaven when we bring order to the world around us. We are all gardeners of a sort and most of our lives are dedicated to tending, keeping and making” (184). She takes us to our own places and shows us how to love them. I will be buying this book as gifts.

Tell me what about the trees in your life? What have they meant to you?

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  • Mark says:

    He was The King of Trees, taller by far than any others around with a massive trunk. I don’t know what kind of tree he was, some kind of pine, I think, that had been planted decades before beside the Language Arts building at the college she and I attended.

    I kissed her . . . or maybe she kissed me . . . under the great arms of that tree. I never said to her, “I love you,” even though she was my first, but I was not hers. She taught me all in our very short time before she broke my heart, the one I didn’t know I had.

    Years later, I walked by there again, but The King was gone.

    • katiewilda says:

      Mark, what a beautiful comment, wow. This is a prose poem. “She taught me all in our very short time before she broke my heart, the one I didn’t know I had.” The heart I didn’t know I had. THere’s all kinds of story in that, and finding it when it was broken. And then the King being gone. Trees breaking, leaving us can be heartbreaking in themselves. Blessings to you.

      • Mark says:

        I read this to Karen who wanted to know why I wrote about someone else. I told my bride of now thirty-nine years that I was writing about the great tree. Karen insisted that you even noted, “She taught me all . . . “ as the centerpoint of the story. I maintained that “she” was only incidental to the poignancy of The King of Trees and to my grief and why I still remember him almost forty-five years later. Only I’m not sure that either of us believed that.

        • katiewilda says:

          Being married thirty-nine years is really amazing. I think you achieve a deep level of love that comes through the years. You were writing about the great tree, yes. I see relationships before Bruce as preparing me for him. The man before him helped me understand somethings I needed to understand before I could enter a committed, loving relationship. I saw how God was able to take something not so good and redeem it. Maybe the woman who broke your heart, showed you your heart and prepared you for Karen, the love of your life. Hugs to you both.

          • Mark says:

            Wise words, Katie.
            My broken heart ultimately led me to Christ and then to Karen. It was an anguish I’d rather have avoided and am glad I did not.


          • katiewilda says:

            I hear you on the anguish we wish we could avoid, but if it leads us to Christ and to people we can love, then it’s a good thing. We’re reading Jeremiah in the daily office and it’s remarkable how God begs his people to come back to him, and how he uses exile to try to catch their attention and bring them back. These blessings God brings are a challenge in that we need to thank him for them and remember they came from him.

  • Mark says: