Trees & Community

A Saturday Caesura

I love trees. I oogle and marvel and stare at them. I draw them and photograph them. Of all the trees I love, two specific ones regularly cause me to pause.

One was once a solitary landmark on a hill, a magnet for photographers. I loved that tree and its defiant hilltop stance. Now the aging tree stoops, the trunk splintered and bent, the few remaining branches locked in an awkward tangled bow towards the ground. Once an icon of prairie fortitude, the tree now stands berefit of dignity and strength.

If you didn’t know the old tree in its youthful years, you wouldn’t know where to find it now. Even I have to look carefully to see its misshapen form, hidden as it is in the copse of young trees surrounding it. An expansive community of roots holds them fast through the storms that continue to assault the hilltop. I often imagine that these spry saplings are shielding their broken ancestor from exposure and ridicule, protecting its dignity, promising to carry forward its legacy of holding ground, of standing firm.

The second tree is a more recent discovery, but it is also bent, never to stand tall and straight again. Some accident or force of nature caused its trunk to nearly break, toppling the rest of the tree to the left where neighbouring trees caught it before it could crash land. In spite of its awkward right-angled jog, the trunk is thick and strong. Prolific branches still birth leaves in spring and bid them adieu in the fall.

I imagine this tree spending a few years apologizing to the friends who faithfully keep holding it up. I imagine the friends reassuring it: We’ve got you. No worries. We aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. We’ll just grow through this together. And no, you aren’t a burden. I imagine the tree finally stops apologizing and accepts this grace and lives its gratitude with each new leaf, season after season.

We can learn a lot from trees, I think.

2 thoughts on “Trees & Community”

  1. I absolutely LOVE trees! I see trees from the inside to out. I am making a necklace for one of my granddaughters out of purple heart and maple burl. I looked again at where purple heart comes from and what the tree looks like. I also know that a burl on a tree can look like a big ugly defect but when opened a burl will blow you away with its beauty. I am giving my granddaughter a piece of the world and some beauty where it could be have been seen as ugly. I love your observation of the trees you see and I hope I have added another dimension to your thot process. Love your writing Charis. Thanks


    1. “…a burl on a tree can look like a big ugly defect but when opened a burl will blow you away with its beauty.”
      I love this image, Judy! So many layers of truth to ponder around understandings of beauty, inside and out. Thank you for adding this dimension – one that you would know so well because where I attempt to craft with words, you craft with wood. Your granddaughter will be so blessed with your gift of love and what it represents.


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