“…The forest keeps different time; slow hours as long as your life…So you feel more human; persuaded what you are by wordless breath of wood, reason in resin…Ah, you thought love [applied only to humans] till you lost yourself in the forest…these grave and patient saints…pray and pray and suffer your little embrace.” Forest, by Carol Ann Duffy, the Scottish poet
This holiday season, as we hastily adorn living rooms, front porches, and workplaces with either real or artificial pine trees – what if we’re also trying to feel more human? Yes, the Christmas tree is a much-beloved holiday tradition. But what if trees, “these grave and patient saints,” actually slow us down, calm our fears and provide a canopy of beneficence unnamed but longed for?
Imagine if our yearnings for continuity, and to be in close proximity with those whom we love – also points to this ineffable but ancient connection to all of nature itself, and in particular, trees? What if something seemingly common and expendable as a tree – holds not only the link to our distant past – but grasps the key to our future?
In the nineteenth century, German composer Ernst Anschutz wrote a traditional folk song, O Tannebaum, which translated means, O Fir Tree. Later it was adapted as a Christmas carol, giving voice to our yearning:
“O Tannebaum, O Christmas Tree, how lovely are thy branches!” O Tannebaum, O tannebaum, how lovely are thy branches!”
In this Season of Advent, be with us, Divine Maker, so that we may behold our kinship with all of creation as you ordained it, including trees. Amen.