Trees evoke memories! Memories shape the past and enlighten the future. I ponder the role certain trees have played as they flood my memories. The role of people I understand.
My meditative council speaks wisdom – sometimes invited, but often unbidden. A diverse bunch of folks, this council includes the voices of Joe Mathews, St. Theresa, Martin Luther King, Jr, Eleanor Roosevelt, Barbara Kingsolver, Mohandas Gandhi, Dietrich Bonhoffer, Lyn Mathews, Mary Warren Moffett. As I travel a many faceted road they are friends who whisper in my ear and inform my choices. But, trees? Trees have become friends who crowd the memories of my life.
In the 1930’s and 40’s, the poplar tree by the driveway at 119 North B in Arkansas City, Kansas supplied the switches that our father applied to our bare legs. This reminded my sister or me of our transgressions. Called child abuse today, these switches across our legs never hurt anything but our pride…it stung a bit but taught us manners.
A picture-perfect oak tree in the middle of our back yard in Lake Forest, Illinois became a dear friend in the 70’s. However, one day as I stepped out on the deck, I looked up to see our nine-year-old daughter waving from the top of the tree. I gasped and managed to croak, “Mary, what are you doing?”
An olive tree hanging over the outhouse served as a feeding station for a flock of warblers. Mary, by then a freshman in high school, and I spent a month in the village of Azpitia, a development project southeast of Lima, Peru. Every day as I listened to the birds, I anticipated them singing in our yard in Illinois during spring migration. For two years in Evanston, Illionis, our burr oak provided worms for warblers as they flew north. Viewing the warblers from my second floor sewing room became a daily ritual. During May (the month of migration), I spent too many hours in communion with that tree and its visitors.
Transferred by the Santa Fe Railroad to Kansas City in 1982, I realized trees played as vital a role in our house search as kitchens and bedrooms. The first view of our home on Tomahawk Road was on Good Friday with a light snow falling. As I opened the sun porch door five male cardinals popped in and out of a tall linden tree in the corner of the yard. “This is it,” I announced, then went inside to look at the rooms.
One night a few years later, lightning struck the maple beside our driveway. Even though red-bellied woodpeckers had built a nest in a hole in the tree, George at Country Club Tree Service persuaded me the tree had to come down. It wasn’t safe. So with great sorrow, I bade farewell to that friend.
On our several journeys to Kenya these three trees greeted us as we drove out each day to hunt for animals. They pointed the way back into our camp at the end of the day also. They became my great friends.