When I saw these two trees a few years ago, I couldn’t resist taking a picture. I didn’t know why, just knew it was a very interesting sight. Recently, when I came across the picture it made me think of old and new sharing their strengths, sharing the space, living out whatever purpose they were sprouted for.
These trees are in a woods that was a favorite playground for my younger sister and me. I’m almost positive that the older leaning tree was one we climbed, a real challenge since it has no low limbs. That tree has to be pretty ancient now! The younger tree obviously hasn’t been there many years. It looks straight and proud and aggressive.
Only a short distance away is a cluster of rocks large enough that Suzanne and I climbed on them. We had picnics atop their mossy backs with imaginary friends, and claimed the rocks as the center of our lively village of interesting characters. We played there for hours at a time, only returning to our real house when it was time for dinner. Imaginary dinner doesn’t nourish very heartily!
Farther down the hill from the interesting pair of trees is an old family cemetery. Lilies of the valley used to grow there, their tiny white bells so pretty amongst the moss giving a sense of music to the place in addition to the wind in the numerous tall pines. Four graves share the space in a small enclosure defined by a dry stone wall nestled into the hillside. Suzanne and I were very respectful of those graves and the people there whom we’d never met. We were always quiet when we wandered close to the cemetery. But we were never afraid. We’d been told wonderful stories about Grandmother Grace, Great-Grandmother Amelia, Great-Aunt De and, especially, of our sister Carol who died at the age of four a few short years before the last three of our clan were born. We sometimes wondered how it would be if Carol could play with us. We wondered, too, if she were growing older in heaven or staying the same age.
Naturally, when I came upon these trees a couple of years ago, I was assaulted with memories of our playground, some of our imaginary friends whose names I could still remember, and vague images of the occupants of that cemetery. I should add here that my Dad was the first to be buried in the new cemetery on Tulip Hill when he died in 1959. He had planned it that way, partly because he didn’t want those tall pines cut down to make more space, and partly, I think, because he thought a hilltop from whence you could see sunsets and sunrises was a more hopeful place.
My parents both loved trees. Dad could lose his temper badly if some forester mistook his directions and cut down the wrong tree. Yet he was diligent in taking down trees in order to open a view to the mountains, or removing one that was diseased so a healthier one could use the space. A keeper of the woods has to cut out and prune some. But I do love to see old rotting logs, stumps with mushrooms growing on them, the old and the young together. And there’s something very artistic about crooked, gnarled, or leaning trees that show their wear and tear. That’s why I was so intrigued by these two trees. I wondered what my Dad would have done had he come upon these two when the young maple was a sprout proposing to grow in the same space with the old dogwood. Which one would he have cut? Or would he have left them both?
What a wonderful thing it is to have a mingling of old and young in our churches, amongst our friends, in the workplace. The older ones can offer wisdom and knowledge (maybe!) while the younger ones keep us up on technology, the newest music, as well as lending their strength when seniors get wobbly. My youngest great grandchildren helped me yesterday making a batch of cookies. I helped them learn to measure, sift flour, cream butter and sugar, and space cookies evenly on a cookie sheet. They fetched items for me and kept me from falling! As we worked we talked about old times of which they have no concept. They jabbered away about one of the new video games, just sure I’d want to play it. It was a good sharing time.
Looking again at the two trees I wonder–is the elderly tree helping with its strong deep roots to keep the young one secure? Or is the young one covering the older tree’s base with its claw like roots in order to keep the leaning tree from leaning right on over? This could be a picture of diversity, a difference in age, in strengths and weaknesses, not to mention a difference in appearance, in bark and leaves. What this says to me is this: as people, we, too, are all different, every one of us endowed by our Creator with a particular purpose, maybe multiple purposes at various stages of life.
One purpose is simply to share in the walk of life.
1 Timothy 5:1-2–Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.