I am joining in on Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday today, but I must admit that while I began with the usual five-minute timed session, I got on a roll, and continued on! So with that disclaimer, here is my response to the prompt:
Memory is a funny thing. Often, I can’t remember the name of the person I met a few days ago, but I remember lines from poems that I learned 17 years ago. In 7th grade, I had a fantastic English teacher who made us memorize well-known poems. We would groan and roll our eyes, but 17 years later, when I am prompted with the word “tree,” guess what pops into my mind: “Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree” (thank you, Joyce Kilmer). I didn’t understand it at 12 years old, but I remembered it. I must have known it was powerful, because it stuck with me.
One of the things I enjoy doing in my new setting is to attend a local yoga class in an open-air palapa (a large, wooden, thatch-roofed hut). Recently, while in the midst of practicing the tree pose, and wobbling, I found a small but sturdy tree to focus on, to keep my balance. I was struck again by the beauty, the sturdiness of a tree. While I was swaying and shaking, that tree was strong and sure. I watched the rain fall around it, but the tree stood its ground, helping me to steady my own body.
What does the sturdiness of a tree, which gives life, say about the One who made it? And what does it say about us humans, who thoughtlessly destroy trees for our own gain? “Only God can make a tree,” says Kilmer, but we humans can certainly cut them down in vast quantities. Even here in Belize, we watch precious rainforest become decimated in less than an hour when someone decides to “develop” land.
The lack of trees is particularly a problem in many poor countries. Discussing the benefits of agroforestry, Scott C. Sabin in Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God’s People writes: “Trees help stabilize the soil and can be incorporated into barriers that control erosion. They also provide organic matter in the form of leaves and root dieback, which helps improve soil health and fertility.” Not to mention their role as a home for many other plants and animals, increasing biodiversity. Trees are more than just beautiful, they are vital.
I return to the wisdom of a line from a poem I learned many years ago. As we revere the majesty of a tree, made only by God, we will hopefully learn to value it, to care for it. With the humility and willingness to call ourselves “fools” at times, may our revering of the earth lead to its preservation.
“Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”