“There is nothing wrong with having a tree as a friend,” Bob Ross, a former American artist and TV host, once said.
And recently, I have realized that just about everyone has a tree as a friend, or at least, they have a tree that is special to them.
After reading The God of Garden by Andrew Peterson, my new favorite question is to ask people what their favorite tree is, and so far, everyone has had an answer. I’ve decided it is a wonderful conversation starter.
“What’s your favorite tree?” I recently asked my nearly ninety-two maternal grandmother on the phone. With her dementia, I wasn’t expecting much of an answer, but instead it prompted a childhood memory. She told me that her favorite tree was an apple tree at the farmhouse where her grandmother lived. “The apples were yellow,” she said when I asked her the color. Then she added that the tree was easily accessible and that she could quickly run to it and escape from people by climbing up into the branches. (And yes, she even admitted to smoking the fruit of tobie trees in it–my grandma has always been a bit fond of mischief.) As the conversation continued, we reminisced about going to Schramm Farms and Orchards and making apple pies. Good memories were shared, all because I asked about her favorite tree.
When I asked my paternal grandpap the same question, he told me of an oak tree from his childhood. When I asked my father, he told me how he often found solitude in the branches of a tree as a child. Speaking for myself, I’ve never climbed a tree, but I like to stand by our Narnia tree and stare into the woods while I walk around the yard and reflect.
“What is the Narnia tree?” you wonder. Well, the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. is one of my favorite book series, and I've lost count of how many times I've read the book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. A key component of the story is a lamp post at the edge of the woods leading into Narnia. Likewise, our tulip poplar is at the edge of our driveway, and it leads into the woods, as if you are transitioning from one world to another. However, it mostly reminds me of the Narnia lamp because our tree has a streetlamp attached to it that we acquired several years ago. For all these reasons, my brother Ben and I like to imagine our tulip poplar tree is the lamp post in Narnia. He even painted a picture to illustrate this, complete with the character Mr. Tumnus walking past.
As a funny sidenote, for a while, a neighbor, separated by the woods behind us, saw the light and thought it was the moon until his wife corrected him. So the light is now affectionately known as "Mr. Watt's Moon." Also, as you can see in the below photograph, when Ben was in college, he had hung a multi-piece frog he made in class off of this tree, but sadly, with the tree growing and expanding, his creation eventually broke.
Maple trees, both our own and our neighbors’, also hold many memories for me, mostly because we used to tap them every year and make syrup. There’s also a story of someone throwing my hula hoop into the sky, and it accidentally catching on a high branch in one of our maple trees that has since been cut down. I still don’t remember how we eventually got it out or how many days or weeks that it was stuck up there... I do remember getting dirt in my eye as a result of standing under the tree while someone threw up a rope in an attempt to knock the hula hoop down. I had the privilege of looking like a pirate for a few days because the dirt scratched my eye, and I wore a patch. I laugh about it now.
I also love oak trees, and I enjoy picking up a few acorns in the autumn to place on my bookshelf. My parents hope to plant an oak tree this year where that old maple tree used to stand, and my mom recently shared an Elisabeth Elliot quote, which has furthered our desire to plant this oak tree.
“Think of the self that God has given as an acorn. It is a marvelous little thing, a perfect shape, perfectly designed for its purpose, perfectly functional. Think of the grand glory of an oak tree. God’s intention when He made the acorn was the oak tree. His intention for us is ‘… the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’ Many deaths must go into our reaching that measure, many letting-goes. When you look at the oak tree, you don’t feel that the loss’ of the acorn is a very great loss. The more you perceive God’s purpose in your life, the less terrible the losses seem.”
So please tell me about your favorite tree. Tell me why it is special to you and what memories you have attached to it. And please expect more posts on trees and themes examined in The God of the Garden by Andrew Peterson. This post was inspired by the beginning chapters of his memoir, where he revisits trees of his childhood and recalls forgotten memories that are triggered by again seeing those trees. I highly recommend the book.