As a Tree

A wet and darkling time has fallen, the dormant earth waking unnaturally from its rest. First came heat, and the world seemed blasted by it, bound for drought. In the summery warmth, trees stood naked and grass lay brown. Now, a week of rain. The yard lies puddled, the grass stretches tall and unruly.

I have been planting young trees and shrubs, reading to the children about Fangorn Tree-Herd. (Slow going, that.) It’s true, there is magic in trees. In years past, when I was outdoors constantly, I would have thought nothing of the lack of early leaf. I recalled, when the snow came last Sunday, that of course the trees would have known. They always do. This is why we plant the corn by the turning of the lilac leaf.

And this rain? If the leaves had been out already, they would have told me. There is a certain kind of tree which turns over the silver undersides of its leaves when rain is coming.

Let us not be hasty, then, to judge the season till its time is full. The rain has come; the earth has greened. The blossoms swell to bursting on plum and bird-cherry. Trees know what we cannot, channelling the intentions of their Maker in a sweet, silent language for those who would pause to hear it.

As a child, I spent half my summer days in the arms of a great jack pine, forty feet in the air. It was planted there by my great-great-grandfather. The orchard which surrounded it is overwhelmed now in the underbrush, the ancient fence pulled down and swallowed by the tangling grass. But in the heart of it, through a bowed arch built of gnarled plum branches clasping, there are still apples. Two I found; one a larger fruit and not unpalatable, the other small and bitter, gone astray outside the fence and perhaps a reverted thing, tough and wild. Trees come with secrets, and go beyond the reach of a man’s short time.

So now, the days are sullen, dripping and morose. The trees slowly spread leafy fingertips to brush at the sky, caressing the moist, cold wind, reading its portents. I think if I do nothing else this year, perhaps it might be best to cease to be so hasty, and remember an older, slower language: that of trees.