For weeks now my children have not been able to stop themselves from singing April showers bring May flowers. Even the four-year-old, she who serenades her dinner companions every evening with the months-of-the-year ditty she learned in preschool, knows that this song is not yet quite appropriate. But each one of them also knows that it is raining, again, and something new is just there on the far side of the horizon.
And so they sing.
Today is the last day of March, and it is raining cats and dogs. It is raining puddles and mud. It is gushing, washing, rinsing, quenching. I planned to visit the library, but this rain is too much even for the tall, waterproof boots I wear in the garden. It is too much even for my one remaining unbroken umbrella. I am drinking tea and typing these words instead.
Someone sent me a message. You know about trees. Tell me, why is my river birch dripping water? Why is it trickling, oozing, seeping, leaking? Is something wrong?
Nothing is wrong, I told her. All trees know how to sing, but some trees also know how to cry.
When the weather turns from warm to wet, a birch tree will drip, drip, drip.
Last year in Hawaii, I saw trees sheathed in rainbows.
The rainbow eucalyptus thrives in tropical climates. It is happiest in rain-washed places. It sheds its bark, and what remains are long, vertical strips of color: red, orange, green, blue, gray. Rainbows trickle, ooze, seep, and leak their colors down the length of each trunk.
I saw those colors from the car window as we drove toward the North Shore. We had flowery leis in our laps. Later, we tore the string and tossed the flowers and said one more goodbye to the man who died just there, above those waters. Somewhere just to the right of the rainbow and to the left of the singing whale, he went where we cannot yet follow.
I visited my friend this week and saw a rough wooden cross in the corner of her small sitting room. It was our Christmas tree, she told me. Now it is our Easter cross.
I’m sure her tree was beautiful. I have forgotten the name, but she said it was some rare variety: silvery and soft. That beauty is lost. What remains is harsh and looked out of place propped in the corner of the room. It can’t be easy, I thought, to live with this cross.
Some legends say that Jesus’s cross was made from the wood of an aspen tree. Apparently, these trees do grow in that region of the world. No matter where they grow, aspen leaves startle and stir in even a slight breeze. It is said the tree trembles for what it has seen and how it was used.
I read somewhere that in Hebrew the name of this tree is baca. This is also the name of the “Valley of Weeping” mentioned in Psalm 84. When I go to check my memory against the knowledge of the internet, I find that baca might mean balsam-tree. It might mean mulberry.
It seems there are many trees associated with weeping.
In Psalm 84, the Valley of Weeping changes as we walk through it. By the touch of our feet, it becomes a place of springs. Then the early rains come, but they do not bring puddles or mud. They bring blessing.
I do not want to walk through the valley. I am tired of tears (drip, drip, drip). I do not want to trip over the ugly, bare cross in the corner of the room, and I certainly do not want to carry it on my back.
Today, I do not even want the rain.
But I want the rainbows. I want the May flowers. I want, yes I admit, I want the blessing.
I want to know what the trees have always known.
I want to know what it is to be planted, planted so deep and so well, that not even death can pull up these roots.
Oh, death. Where is your sting? You grab at us. You scratch and claw. And what is revealed?
Wow! This was so beautiful and real. I’m getting ready to embark on a journey of ministry for grieving kids, it’s been so surreal how God has shown me the details, oh so slowly over the years. Losing my dad when I was 10 has always been a part of me, and I’m getting ready to step onto the path God always knew he would take me. Out of pain, something always grows…
Thanks for sharing your beautiful words.
Alli, Thank you. I find so much encouragement in your words. My niece had just turned 9 when her Dad died in Hawaii. Your story gives me such hope.
This is so beautiful Christie, and it’s filled with the rainbow-promise of hope, after rain, after cold, after darkness, after death. I just returned from retreat on Iona, the remote, no-bigger-than-a-dot on the map island, off the west coast of Scotland. I’m writing an essay about it and the subtitle is Somewhere Beyond the Rainbow. Iona is ringed in rainbows–rainbows in rain, in sleet, and in sun. I saw them everywhere, anywhere, and in every weather condition. It is said that Iona is a thin place, and surely it is. I know you can’t *see* God, but you see evidence of Him everywhere in Iona. And while I have been very fearful of death as a Christian (something hard to admit in print), Iona has changed all that. I swear I saw rainbows behind the thin veil separating heaven and earth . . . as if God were revealing His beautiful smile (in technicolor). Iona convinced me that heaven is real, if I will but have eyes to see beyond the rainbows. My vision is sharpening.
What a powerful vision, Lynn. In your words I glimpse what you glimpsed, and it is so encouraging. Thank you. One more reason I would love to visit Iona one day!
Oh Christie. Go. Just go! You will be so close to the Lord (and Shawn) there, and your life and soul will be transformed. He’ll make a way to get you there (and yes, it takes some “getting” via plane, bus, train, ferry, bus, and ferry yet again), but you will do this!!
When we first moved into this home it intersected with the month for planting a garden. I set to work clearing a neglected garden spot while boxes, unpacked sat in various places around the house. In all honesty I was angry, so forcing a shovel into hard packed earth felt like a good way to vent some of that emotion. It has now been one year since we moved into this place and in three months we make another move. No garden this year yet, bulbs that were untouched by my effort have come up. Tulips. I suppose I am in a space of mourning. This move is big and it is exciting unlike the previous move.The garden for me represents life in its many stages.
As I mentioned once before, gardening without gloves is a pleasure to me. I feel connected to my Creator when I allow the soil to sift through bare fingers. The green leaves of the tulips run here and there. Another indication for me that despite my need for order or control, some things just happen and can still be a thing of beauty if I choose to embrace it as it is. In between packing I dream of the next garden so today I purchased another packet of seeds.
The garlic is growing strong having survived the long unexpected Winter.
Cherry blossoms are starting to unfurl extending themselves out towards the sun.
Its a good start to a new year.
It sounds like a beautiful new start. I pray God blesses those seeds in your hand and leads you to just the place prepared for them.
I love this, Christie. I am tired of tears, too (and change and grief and rain). But I also want the rootedness. And the blessing.