Nancy Boyd: The Nature of Trees

Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, wrote a book entitled “When the Trees Say Nothing.” He was a great lover of nature and especially of trees. I truly understand what he meant and why it was so meaningful to him. He had learned that in silence we often hear the greatest messages.

This is obviously so contrary to our secular lives and to our ways of communication. It may not be often that we conclude that excessive noise, excessive language, and continual action actually gets in the way of our giftedness regarding thought. It has become easier in succeeding generations to accept the turmoil and the constant interruption of noise. Even the bombardment of text after text seems to interrupt our quiet spaces. 

The season of Fall is the one in which I find my deepest connection to life. If one lives in the Midwest, as I always have, the changing colors of various leaves can speak loudly to our inner being. Acorns and pine cones speak of their own life cycles. Trees are trusting, there is no question as to when or why their leaves are so able to “let go.” Ah, what a profound message this is. I’m glad to have grown up and lived my life among the silent messages of Fall’s trees.

As winter arrives, the barren branches receive the gift of freshly fallen snow. Quietly they receive what nature brings to them. Occasionally a bright red cardinal will land softly among the naked branches of our trees in winter, and we can receive the message loud and clear that this too is a part of the beauty of our God given nature. Admittedly it is difficult to accept our barren branches when snow has not descended upon them. I suppose it is a lesson of those times in our lives when we feel empty or lost. Sometimes the light is not among us and we must, as nature does, continue to believe in what will be.

Most often, we in our human nature can’t wait until the newly sprouted buds of spring appear upon the once barren branches. They always do but our impatience in not knowing can become a barrier to our growth in winter. I’m glad that snow has always been a part of my life, and I am even okay to admit that winter speaks to me in ways no other season can. This too is a part of the plan unless one escapes to the tropical places. Palm trees have their own wonderful ways of speaking in the silence if one is receptive to their message. I’ve been there and have enjoyed the beauty of swaying palms in warmer weather but I am after all a Midwest girl through and through.

Summer, the season most people appreciate best. While the leaves festively appear among our myriad of trees, most often they go unnoticed. Of course, they’re there, aren’t they supposed to be? People will most likely notice them when the temperatures become chilly and those leaves begin to disappear. And so, the circle of life in one simple, silent way, speaks to us. 

Perhaps leaves speak loudest when we find our children pouncing into piles of them neatly raked by the adult in the family. Children do not often know of the deep need for silence, though it is important for them as they grow and mature. If we haven’t learned the lessons of silence growing up, it will likely be much more difficult to attain as we age. In their lives, having too much going on is perhaps meant to be until aging sets in, and they are the ones with rake in hand, until they are the ones in need of quiet spaces that they may not have experienced often enough. 

Let me always partake of the silence of the trees that surround me in this earthly life. Allow them to teach me what chaos never will, to show me how powerful silence can be for the inward life. The seasons of my life will not come around again, they come only once, and each have their lessons to be received. May I hear them in the silence and in the rustling of the leaves as nature’s seasons come and go. Then I will have lived a full and meaningful life, even within the lessons of silence. 

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