The Memory of Trees

A re-post of one of my favorites. Originally published 5/27/14


tree genesis

tree tall 2EYES LIFTED ABOVE THE ROOFTOPS, I walk along the backstreets of my neighborhood, trying to see only the form and character of the trees that now fill my field of vision. Ash and oak, beech and maple, birch, gum, spruce and pine, other trees I can’t name; a fractal canopy, sometimes symmetrical, sometimes broken; I break my reverie only to watch where I’m going. The houses and lawns and cars seem out of place, or at best guests who must soon leave and leave all as it was before. I am trying to sustain a fact-fictional dream in my mind as I write on my memory both knowledge and feeling, imagining a past part real and part longing unfulfilled.tree pine needles

There is one particular place, halfway down a block, with long-needle pines towering on both sides of the street; the soft dead needles beneath lay a brown carpet. When the summer is warm enough you gather the pine fragrance just by walking by. Neither these neighbors nor these trees know my name, but this is the place where I remember who I was, by the sea, in the coastal southern pine forests of my youth. And I remember who I never became, yet may still embrace, if I can bring the ages back with me.

My neighborhood is 50 years old. Its polish has been rubbed off and it shows tree autumnscuff marks and loose threads here and there. Yet as the houses have aged, the remnant of forest they were set down in matured, and spread. Trees that were saplings are now a half-century old, and those that were already that age are now a hundred. In the autumn, the bit of suburban sprawl I call home is so beautiful it hurts, and I wonder why such glory must be the harbinger of even temporary death. The stark splendor of bare winter trees leaves me empty.tree maple buds

Every spring I try to catch the sugar maple in my front yard in mid-bud. If I can do that, if I can see time as it happens, I can believe I am not so caught up in myself and the whirl of my circumstances that I have lost the real world.

The maple is old and furrowed now, with bark stained black from years of woodpecker holes oozing sap like life-blood. The tree is broken and cracked and narrowed down from wind and ice and its own weight. Last late spring we almost had it taken down. So many broken and dead limbs had to be taken out and the rest so sharply trimmed that half the tree is gone. But the remainder has shot out secondary growth that has spread for two seasons. I did catch the budding this spring. And this summer the shadow of a Real Thing, lessened but living, will shade my memory.

ON PATMOS, ST. JOHN SAW THE COMING KINGDOM OF GOD—a new heaven and a new earth. In the center of the city that is the center of the new creation he saw the “tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2). I know that everything in the Book of Revelation after chapter three is symbolic, but that doesn’t mean it is not real. And there are certainly new trees in the new creation. And I will walk there and gaze and remember and be healed.


About Michael W Nicholson

I am a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband, father, and grandfather, a brother and a friend. My professional career has been in education. I taught Industrial Arts in Middle School for six years, four years as an adjunct professor in theology and philosophy, and fifteen years teaching classes in Old Testament, Apologetics, and Worldviews in a Christian High School. Like everyone else who breathes in American culture, I am infected with chronic postmodernity, but I am aware of this and regularly administer the treatment: Historic Christian Orthodoxy as contained in the Scriptures of the Old & New Testaments. I am fascinated by almost every subject imaginable, except economics. I have a Ph.D. in systematic theology from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I believe in a God who wants to be found; who leaves signs and suggestions, trademarks, signatures, and signposts scattered throughout every aspect of our existence. And if we are truly looking, He will find us. God is the great Story-teller, and the story he is telling is the great drama of Reality, unfolding before us and of which we are all inescapably a part. And so I am collecting fragments, in Philosophy, in Science, and in Art and holding these fragments up to the light and turning them this way and that, and trying to see and say how the Story—the metanarrative, the Christian Worldview—is involved in, and makes sense of, every aspect of our being-in-the-world (to borrow a term from Heidegger and take it where perhaps he did not intend for it to go). And by doing this I hope I am helping to light the way Home; back to the sea, the ocean, the Ocean of Infinite Love. My blog covers a wide range of topics around this central theme that the transcendent realm surrounds and permeates our existence. I put up new posts periodically. I hope you enjoy them. I hope they help.
This entry was posted in Biblical Theology, Narrative Theology, Nature, Personal Narrative and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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