A letter to Leah Schade at Patheos, in response to her post about the sacredness of trees.
Thank you for this lovely meditation on trees. You remind me to go to them for their wisdom – I don’t mean in any pantheist sense, but in the sense that in their presence it is possible to reflect on our lives, on what we value. At times, especially in the madness of the everyday, it’s difficult to believe there can be a God. And then I go to the trees, with their majestic beauty, their physical expression of the life force within them – sap, roots, the roughness or smoothness of bark, the tensile strength of branches, cascades of leaves. How they move in the wind, how they change through the seasons. In the presence of a tree, I sense God. A felled tree is always a sort of crucifixion, a young sapling a resurrection. I draw trees, because to draw them is to look intently at them, to see them as more than future lumber or objects for casual landscaping. The old, gnarled ones, the survivors, fascinate me the most. And those ragged trees in dismal cities: they soldier on, abused, cut with graffiti, plastic caught in their branches. I recently met a skilled bonsai grower who had saved a small sapling from a rubble-covered construction site: a tiny living thing had survived a bulldozer! He nurtured it back to health and even with it’s wounds it was by far his most beautiful tree. Trees show us who we are, and what we could be.