I have a thing for trees. I mean, I really, really like them. A lot. So spending an entire day amidst the maples and the oaks was remarkably relaxing. My first hour alone in the woods was spent sitting next to a delicate sapling that was about two feet tall. I felt particularly drawn to this infant tree because it provided a small glimpse of bright green among all the brown and golden leaves that covered the forest floor. I usually think of Spring as the season of new growth, yet here was this young tree, beginning its life in the middle of Fall. I started to think about the big, strong trees that towered around it. These grandparent trees protected the baby tree, sheltering it from the harsh wind, the glaring sun, and the pounding rain. But these trees do so much more for my little baby tree. Their leaves, which have fallen to the ground, return to the dirt and are able to provide nutrients for the small tree. They let go of their leaves, and through their sacrifice, allow this little tree to grow, so that one day, it too will be able to provide shelter to new infant trees. To me, this small tree was telling the story of something much bigger than itself; it was the epitome of the circle of life. Though I had to listen carefully to hear the gentle whisper of this tree’s leaves, it hollered loudly of our Creator, proclaiming life, nourishment, and sustenance to all things. God knows exactly what is needed for my little tree to survive and He has provided for it. He has given it all it needs and more – enough for it to grow into an endless, beautiful forest. And what an overwhelming peace – if He has provided for this small tree, how much more will He provide for His children?
The majority of our time was spent in solitude, but every few hours, we came together as a group to discuss what we had been learning through our moments in the woods. One of the other team members shared his revelation about the falling leaves. The trees don’t try to gather their fallen leaves and put them back on their branches, for that would be foolish. Instead, they accept the changes that must come, even though that requires giving up parts of themselves in order to provide room for new things to grow. These words of wisdom stuck with me, as well as my roommate Maureen, and prompted her to write the following words:
Look at the trees, my child.
They do not mourn for the things they have lost,
Or cling to the dying,
For they know that to do so would be foolish,
For it would only weaken them
As they tried feeding into that which has already served its purpose.
They do not tremble at the thought of the bitter winter to come,
For they know that only through death comes new life.
– Maureen O’Malley
The same day that I spent out in the woods, my grandmother passed away. All death is untimely, but perhaps Friday was the least of bad times for my grandmother to leave this earth, for my heart was at peace. Like the leaves in the woods, the time has come for her to fall from our family tree. But the end of this life was not in vain, for it has provided new life, time and time again. In turn, those lives have provided new lives, and my brother, cousins, and I shall continue that legacy, until the life of my grandmother has created an entire forest.
I will be returning home for a couple days to spend time with my family and attend my grandmother’s funeral. Please keep my family in your prayers.
In loving memory of Grammie
Berniece “Toots” Catherine Haider
1917 – 2010