I'm becoming fascinated with different symbols for life, ever since buying my chai necklace. On the day I am writing this, I started thinking about the "tree of life" in the Bible. It's rather quite mysterious. In Genesis, it is in the middle of the garden (2:9); and after Adam and Eve eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the tree of life is guarded from their touch as well. In Proverbs Wisdom, the fruit of the righteous, a desire fulfilled, and a gentle tongue are all described as a tree of life (3:13,18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4). It is not mentioned again until Revelation, where permission to eat its fruit is given to everyone who conquers, where it grows on either side of the river, producing 12 kinds of fruit each month, and its leaves are healing for the nations, where those that have washed their robes may eat of it, and where it is threatened to be taken away from those who alter the words of the prophecy of that book (2:7; 22:2,14,19).
I've never really done any research on the concept, and I find these images intriguing.
When I was growing up, we had a huge sugar maple tree in our front yard. There was also an apple tree in our back yard that was perfect for climbing, and sometimes I'd take a book up there and read. On the east side of the garage, there were some pine trees which smelled beautiful in the fall. And there really is nothing like driving around the curve in the road in the fall and seeing the glorious colors on the maple tree appear. Of all those trees, only the sugar maple still stands.
In my backyard now, we have a lot of trees, and as cold as winter is, looking out at them in the darkness of night is appealing. In my journal last winter, as I stared out into the yard, and meditated upon Psalm 62:1, "For God alone my soul waits in silence", I wrote this (thanks to my friend Joy Newcom for recognizing it as a poem and reformatting it as such):
Howling wind. Spitting snow.
A tree, a spot where a branch
used to grow. Broken. Dead.
So dark. A light above my window
shines down, illuminating
just a few feet. Wind dies down
and picks up. Again. And again.
What about God am I waiting for?
How will I know when He is there?
Will He be here? Snow is blowing
from the northwest. Dead grass,
sticks, stones make a mosaic-type
pattern on the ground. I press
my face to the glass to see better.
Trees emerge in the dark landscape.
I feel peace. I feel inspiration,
beautiful words. The silence
is beautiful. Energizing.
God is the source of life. God
in the silence. God
in the life-giving silence.
What is it about trees and life? A quick google search brought up that many cultures have a history of an idea of a tree of life. Trees are often taken for granted, yet we get so much from trees. Paper, books, wood for fires, oxygen, a home for animals and birds. It is a form of life that lives in two worlds; it is both buried deep in the earth and reaches up into the sky.
When we looked at houses when we moved, there was an area of town where there were hardly any trees, just small, young trees. It felt barren to me, as if without trees, life could be sucked away.
I've been either sick or taking care of sick kids this past week, and so the entire week has not felt very life-giving; it's been very, very tiring. But in the short time that I spent looking up "tree of life" references, I felt a spark of life. I wondered a lot about the tree of life, in the Bible and in various cultural traditions, especially Celtic. In a fiction project I'm working on (that maybe I'll complete in a couple of years...what a long process!), my protagonist, like me, has some Irish ancestry. I want a special piece of jewelry for her to wear or inherit, and the idea of a "tree of life" necklace came to me, so I googled some images. They are beautiful (and now I think that might be my next necklace purchase!).
Maybe, sometimes all we need is just a small spark of life, as a reminder to live, as a reminder to not let our lives get sucked away from us. Even those tiny trees that I didn't like have a spark of life and the potential to grow.
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