Three Trees

I have always loved trees. They mark time with their silhouetted bare branches, budding fragrant blossoms, cool shady leaves, and firework finishes.  For Christmas, I got Evan Sibley’s Book of Trees, and we’ve been marking off slowly the ones we’ve seen on hikes and mountain vacations.  I have always been drawn to stories about trees. A few good ones that come to mind are The Giving Tree and Swiss Family Robinson.

Even the Bible can be summed up as stories of three great trees: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil at the beginning, Christ’s death on a tree in the middle, and the promise of the Tree of Life that holds fruits for the healing of the nations at the end.

There are a lot of ways to tell our little stories, to mark our time and seasons within the great story.  So here’s a little of my story framed by the trees I grew up around, as well as the churches I grew up in and books I grew up reading.

 

Palm Tree

 

I was born in San Diego. Palm, Avocado, and Eucalyptus trees. A Covenant Church. My parents had moved there for graduate school. My dad’s a painter. He read me Pat the Bunny. When I go back now it smells like home.

 

Drawing of a Manzanita Tree

 

When I was two we moved into the mountains. Pine Valley named for Jeffrey, Coulter, and Ponderosa Pines. A Methodist Church. First we lived in a cozy trailer, then my parents built their dream house. My brother was born, we’re both baptized, and have Go Dog Go read to us everyday. I traced the path of ants along the red smooth Manzanitas and sang to myself in the stony front yard.

 

Drawing of Maple Tree

 

At five and half, we moved to southern Wisconsin. Maples, Ornamental Plums, and a few Elms. First a Presbyterian church then a Mega Non-Denominational one. My mom transferred to the home office of her father’s company. Dad was a graphic designer. He could work anywhere. Mom read Laura Ingalls Wilder with me. I wondered if I would live in as many houses as Laura does. My brother and I took our animals on sea voyages in the guest room, and I wore a path around the roots of an enormous maple whispering stories to myself.

 

Drawing of Pine Tree

 

Four days before I turned twelve we moved to New Jersey. Ash and Rhododendron. A Baptist Church. Grandpa sold the company. Now, Mom commuted to Wall Street every day. Dad started to read us Swiftly Tilting Planet four different times, but we were getting too old for family reading time. I rode my bike in circles around the dogwood and along the pine grove in the back yard. I was the star of my own elaborate tales.

 

Drawing of a Weeping Willow Tree

 

Fourteen. A week before high school started, we moved to Northern Wisconsin. Apple, Cherry, Black Locus, and Weeping Willow. First a Pentecostal church then an Eastern Orthodox one. Mom got her Masters in Counseling. I read at least a hundred Christian romance novels.  I wanted to be a writer, but I was afraid I would not be good enough. I finally got a swing underneath a White pine to do my adolescent pondering, but mostly I wandered on pine needle carpeted forest floors and dreamt of good boyfriends.

 

Drawing of an Elm Tree

 

Eighteen. I left for college in Illinois.  Accolade Elm, Burr Oak, Marmo Freeman’s Maple. A Missionary Alliance Church and an Anglican one.  My parents missed me. I made a new family with roommates and coffee drinking friends. I read ancient texts and dense textbooks. I kissed a boy under spring blossoms, and he asked me to marry him in the fall under those towering maples and oaks.

 

Drawing of Tulip Poplar

 

Twenty-two. We moved to Maryland. Tulip Poplars, Sycamores, and Magnolias. A little Anglican Church. I missed my parents. I learned to be an adult who cooked her own breakfast and organized her bookshelves by color. I read a lot of mostly boring books for grad school, then left and read children’s books to feed my soul.  Now I kiss away toddlers’ tears and have started writing a book about fairies and tree houses.

 

I am twenty-eight and half today.  Christmas babies celebrate their half birthdays, sometimes. But everyone’s still on vacation and can’t always come to your parties even in late June. I wonder under what trees I will read Pat the Bunny to my own children. I am not sure if I will have more homes than Laura Ingalls Wilder. It depends how you count it I suppose.

 

But, I know if I take time to notice the shifting shadows under a tree, whether it’s a cypress or a tamarack pine, I’ll find beauty.

 

I know that if I walk the same path for a year or two everyday, I’ll notice the rhythm marked out in falling leaves and new seedlings.

 

I don’t know where our path will lead us, but I know that I’ll find comfort in the shadow of the Most High.

 

Shaded Path lined by Trees

 

How do you mark the different seasons of your life? What are the most beautiful trees you’ve seen?

 

10 Responses to Growing Up With Trees

  1. Deb Rogers says:

    Beautifully written! As a child I loved the trees in our yard and remember weeping when two of the five pines in our front yard were cut down to allow more room for the three remaining ones. I also remember the arching elm trees that lined both sides of Windsor Drive that defined our little neighborhood and made it feel like home. Your parents still miss you. :)

    Mom

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Thanks Mama! I know so many of those elm trees had to come down when we lived in that neighborhood, but I like that we both have memories of the same blocks. My favorite tree was this huge blue spruce that was just past your old house on the other side of the street on the way to my elementary school. I thought it was the most beautiful tree in the whole world. I still miss you and Dad a lot too!

  2. Kimberly S. says:

    HEY AMY!
    I don’t know if this is a coincidence, but Go Dogs Go was my favorite book when I was 4. I “read” it to my dad every single night, but I wasn’t really reading because I memorized it! It sits in a box in our basement of books that Courtney and I have grown out of.

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Do you like my hat? I have recently been reading it to the little one I nanny. I remember thinking that that dog party at the end of the book looked like so. much. fun. Hey, that was on top of a tree as well! I didn’t even think of that. I’m pretty sure the copy we have is one I “borrowed” from work :)

  3. Aunt Karen says:

    I love your reflections. We too have moved a lot. I have feared that my children’s childhood memories are all scrambled up because of all the different places we lived. I have my photos organizes by where we were living at the time, and then I can figure out the year and how old everyone must have been. Someday I hope to make a photo album for them with pictures of all the houses we lived in and some of the highlights of those years.

    When I was a child, we didn’t move at all. We had a large tree in our backyard that we could climb. We gave names to the various branches where you could sit and the highest place was called the crow’s nest. I was sad when my parents cut it down so that they could add on to our house.

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Thanks Aunt Karen! I always wished I could climb trees like your kids. And what amazing trees they have been in over the years! I would love to see that album someday–from Canada, Cameroon, California, Texas, to Honduras–you guys have seen so much of the world. One advantage of moving so much, I suppose, is that I have never really had to watch a beloved tree cut down. They all still live in my memory as giant as they were when I was tiny. But it would be so sad to watch a tree come down. Miss you and Uncle Skip!

  4. Amy B. says:

    This is beautiful, Amy! I love how the drawings compliment the little stories. There are so many ways to tell the story of one’s life, and I appreciate how this lens suits your journey and your love of trees :)

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Thanks Amy! You know that I am such a tree doodler :) I think on Sunday I’m going to talk some about trees, I can’t wait to spend the afternoon with you and the Advent ladies. I’m so glad that you are in my life.

  5. Jenny says:

    This is beautifully written. Trees have also played a major role in my life and I recently wrote a story about it myself. Birch trees, maples and pine trees seemed to be the focus. I also remember those Laura Ingalls Wilder books and Pat the Bunny – how touching!

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Thank you Jenny! There are so many kinds of trees and so many ways that they touch our lives – even giving us the pages to read those great stories!

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