"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly... for he is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither...."
- Psalm 1:1-3
We have just celebrated "Earth Day," that annual reminder to Earth's inhabitants to take better care of this planet we call home. But today, as I gaze at the expanse of springtime green all around me, besides acknowledging my part in caring for its loveliness, I look beyond human effort to the creator, who has done 99.44ths of the work and left only the other half-percent to us. I also remember that wonderful, Joyce Kilmer line: "I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree."
Besides their beauty and usefulness, I look at trees for the lessons they have taught me, like the dying, vine-covered pine that had to be removed from my backyard despite its camouflage. Watching the demolition of that once-lovely tree reminded me of another tree, and another deception.
Morning walks were my sport of choice for years before I began the all-weather habit of indoor swimming I enjoy today, and one of my favorite routes meandered through a large, tranquil forest in Berlin, Germany, called "The Grunewald." Those were unsettled times in our home and my walks served a dual purpose: exercise and meditation.
It wasn't unusual for me to discover a new kind of tree, something I hadn't seen before in this country, but the tree I found during one of those Grunewald walks left me speechless. From a distance it looked like this tree had black bark on one side and white bark on the other.
Was it some kind of experiment, one variety grafted onto another? No, but what I found as I walked closer was even more unusual than that. It wasn't one tree at all, but two slender trees growing so close together that their trunks had twined around each other all the way to the top.
What a beautiful picture of marriage, I thought, two different people sharing the same growing space, arms circling each other for protection and support in order to survive. I couldn't wait to bring my husband into the forest and show him my symbolic tree. I was sure he, too, would be inspired to give our troubled relationship more time.
A few days later as we were approaching the magic tree I couldn't find it. Frantically I searched both sides of the familiar path before coming back to the place where I knew it had stood for so long, and where it still was - sort of.
I hadn't recognized my tree because someone had cut the black half down. A scrawny stump, visible a few inches above the ground, was enough evidence to support my story that there really had been two trees, but this small remnant of life in the forest now had a different story from my cherished analogy to tell. The stump was hollow; the black half of my tree had been dead a long time.
We walked home in silence - point made, discredited, but too much a part of me to give up. Possibly, my denial of the dead tree helped keep our marriage alive five more years. I do know I never gave up hoping we could approximate the life span of that pair of trees and that our union, too, would be dissolved only by death.
Today, after divorce and recovery, my Grunewald tree has an added message for me: Whatever union - marriage, family, friendship - ends, the tree that not only stood but flourished after its partner was removed symbolizes survival. The death of one didn't mean the end of the other. Also, I suspect if I were to return to the Grunewald I would find young trees springing up all around that hollow stump, symbolizing the eternal promise of new life from the seeds of that which dies.
"Poems (and columns)," the writer concludes, "are made by fools like me, but only God can make - teach by, and shower us with its beauty by - a tree."
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.