the wisdom & memory of trees

thoughts on Isaiah 61.1-4, 8-11, Third Sunday of Advent

When I was about 15, I remember one of my favourite albums was The Memory of Trees by Enya. I loved it – the sound, the depth, the harmony, the peace. I still love her music, and have rediscovered it these past couple of weeks. It’s a wonderful calm accompaniment to hours spent at a computer, or in video calls.

Trees have a lot to teach us. JRR Tolkien knew that when he made the Ents of Fangorn Forest (in The Lord of the Rings) such slow, wise and strong creatures of roots and memories. Trees grow slowly and strong. They have an incredible interconnection and community through their roots – a system of mutual aid where they can talk to one another. In time of need, they can even feed a tree that is struggling on its own. If you want to know more, read The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben.

People who plant and care for trees often intuitively understand this different way of thinking. When we plant trees, they are not for us to benefit from – they are for the next generation and those who follow. We rarely see the fruit and maturity of the tree that we plant. It’s a long term thing.

God’s way of working seems to be much the same. Indeed it has been said that the world itself is the first Bible, and the created world (rather than the world we create) that reflects the nature of God.

This week’s reading from the prophet Isaiah has this long term view. Things will not always be as they are now. God will make his people (that’s all of us!) into “oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord to display his glory.”

And I don’t think it should really surprise us – if we stop to think about it – that the God who created Nature and its laws, works at that kind of pace. The pace that sees the long view. The garden grows at it’s own pace, much to the frustration of gardeners. The flowers take time and the right conditions to bloom. The trees take time to come to maturity and fruit. The weeds sprout and spread quickly! The whole thing comes to beauty when it is ready. And it also then dies back, to allow new growth and life to have space to flourish in due course. And it needs constant and patient attention. Pruning here, relocating or shelter there.

Rather than expecting it all to happen overnight – whatever “it” may be for us, in our lives now – perhaps we could try slowing down. And taking a lesson from the wisdom of trees, and their memory of how things can be when allowed to flourish at their own pace.

With peace and blessing,
Revd. Talisker

Photo by Jim Molloy on Unsplash