I first wrote these words a few Octobers ago. Since then, I’ve written a memoir embroidered with stories of trees. That book will come out in March–just in time for green spring–but it seems I’ve been paying attention to the trees for a long while.

 

 

Autumn is announced by the seedling trees. The baby trees. They are the first to abandon their green in favor of orange or red or yellow.

Driving these country roads, they are like lit matches. Small, flickering flames against the general greens and faded browns of early autumn.

They are children embracing the arrival of something new. They wear their faith like Joseph’s multi-colored coat, and we cannot look away.

Soon, even the staid elders will shake off their summer sleep.

Until they blaze.

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)

I observed the brilliant, baby trees, and I immediately thought of Jesus’s words. I imagined I could write out the connection. That I could find some moral in what I had seen.

But trees are living things. They are not convenient object lessons.

Maybe they are parables. Easy to decode but almost impossible to comprehend. Truth so tall and deep, it avoids our grasp, seeking instead the deep well of our hearts.

I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world. (Matthew 13:34)

Yesterday, I saw a strange sight. Walking to shut up the chickens for the night, I saw a line of geese heading southeast. They were black silhouettes against the slate gray backdrop of the sky.

I stood perfectly still watching them, captured by some mystery that wasn’t immediately apparent. Then it came to me in two parts.

First, the geese traveled in a single diagonal line, but there was only emptiness where the other half of the V should have been. Was this a picture of loss and grief? Or only the notice of job vacancies in the sky?

Second, they were quiet. I could hear nothing. No flap of wings, no honking calls.

Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling. (Zechariah 2:13)

I read my Bible, and I watch the trees. I stop to consider the birds. I am learning to collect hidden things. To store them up for the winter day of my need.

And on that day I will know exactly what it means to be a young tree wearing a blaze of color.

I will understand just how much depends upon chasing the far horizon in complete silence.

 

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