A Tale of Two Trees

11 October 2023
Sr. Cheryl Rose

A Tale of Two Trees

Over the years I’ve given many retreats and talks about the season of autumn, and the spiritual lessons of this crisp and colorful season.  I’m always drawn to the leaves—the playful dance of the brilliant, multicolored leaves swirling and twirling joyfully as they make their way to the bed of grass and acorns below.  As I walk these golden mornings, or sit for a spell on a bench, the gentle falling of the leaves feels like a blessing, a quiet “snowfall” of golden leaves that seems a pleasant and painless event.  A benign, not brutal process. But the other day I thought: but how does it feel for the TREE?  What is this process like from the tree’s perspective?  So, let’s do a little imaginative meditation on two tree scenarios, a tale of two trees: the Stressed Tree and the Surrendered Tree.  Step into their “shoes.”

 The Stressed Tree (“arboretum intensitus”)  Well, it was a good summer, I’m happy with the bounty of leaf growth.  I’m definitely ahead of last year.  It’s those extra hours of work processing the chlorophyll…I definitely am more industrious than ever, and it shows!  I clearly have more leaves, better arranged than some of the scrawny trees around here.  I plan ahead!  That’s the difference!  I take my life VERY seriously and have managed to keep any pests away with my no-nonsense intolerance policy.  Oh wait!  What just HAPPENED? I distinctly caught some leaves—which I’ve proudly displayed in brilliant colors—FALL off my branches!! Why, even as I sit here slurping water from the somewhat dry earth, there are more and more of them jumping ship!!  Hey!  Get back here!  Why, they’re paying no attention to me!  Hey! I’m in charge! (several hours later) Oh, woe is me…I don’t get it…I’ve worked so hard and my branches are looking almost bald, as I lose more and more of my thick leaves.  This is not fair!  What does the grass think, as I’m not the handsome green tree I used to be?  The birds are twittering about it, I’m sure…I’m humiliated.  Those pine trees are laughing at me, I can feel it…gloating that their fullness is still splendid.  OK, I know it’s autumn, but I can’t stand this stripping and diminishing, and I feel terrible about myself.  What is the Creator thinking?  Why am I being punished…?

The Surrendered Tree (“arboretum serenitus”)  Ahhh, today just feels wonderful!  I love these cooler days of autumn when the sun is lower in the sky and the sunbeams are longer and golden! I’m so happy to be a deciduous tree—dropping my leaves each year…some of my most dazzling colors show themselves as my precious leaves put down their  work of photosynthesis—harvesting all that chlorophyll and working chemical miracles as they process it.  Time for everyone to sit back and rest from their labors, and just let their true colors shine through. I love my life.  There’s so much change!  It’s never boring in my treeness…I’m so honored to be one who can release my leaves and let them do their sacred, fanciful journey sailing to the ground.  They make a soft bed for animals—and children.  Yes, those little ones love to hear the crunch of my leaves as they run and play.  They know trees are their friends and playmates.  Thank you, God, for making me a tree. I embrace my treehood, and proudly participate in the glorious cycle  You have carved out for me. I bring young green leaves from tiny buds when it’s still cold and frosty.  And how I love to stretch in summer—shading and bringing fresh breezes and giving everyone a safe place to sleep or nap.  And now, Creator, I give my growth back to You, with freely released, trustingly surrendered leaves—which have transformed into their true colors, reflecting the majesty and brilliance of Your face, Holy One. And in the dead of winter, I will stand strong and solid, rooted in Your providence and faithful to Your promise to make me FULLY what you created me to be!  To your great plan, I say “Yes!”