When my soul is lost and storm-tossed, there is a sacred space I love to go and pray. Amidst towering pines in the heart of Black Forest, I trace a pine needle-carpeted labyrinth to the center. Scent of sap and earth, breezes sifting treetops, glaze of sun on my face, peace settles silky like layers of yellow pollen. I am transported back in time, even as courage clusters to dare another next step.
Once upon a time I tiptoed through magic Black Forest trees with my childhood friends. A sun-dappled meandering path of cleared debris guaranteed safe passage through the woodland from my house to theirs. Nimbly we leapt over pinecones and rocks – poison, we imagined.
Pine cones were wielded as the weapon of choice for forest battles. One team sequestered in the sky-castle of a tree-house. The other roamed below, faces pressed against bark, firing arsenal through window gaps. Sap, sticky and sweet, sang from our fingertips.
Our wanderings sometimes concluded at a gnarled old tree sprawled on the ground, roots splayed. Rain-washed, sun-baked skin stretched smooth and supple under our bare feet. We lingered in its embrace, whispering stories and secrets, envisioning the world we would someday explore. Who knows how long it had been there? What stories it could tell of life swelling in ever expanding rings, of a slow and yielding disintegration, while cradling childhood dreams?
My childhood friend and I are now vanquished from the forest. She wanders the world at the bequest of the military. But recently she gathered neighborhood children in the heart of Texas and instructed them in the fine art of scaling urban trees. I have (mostly) resigned myself to city living. But I am always trying to grow a jungle in my backyard. A certain someone threatens to arrive with pruners in hand; but the bigger and wilder my bushes and trees grow, the safer I feel.
Perhaps because trees were integral to a formative time of my life, or maybe simply because God can use anything to reveal Himself, trees speak parables to me. Sometimes they dance or sing. Sometimes their fallen branches block the labyrinth path, and warn me. Right now they are telling me this –
I must be deeply rooted if I hope to touch the sky.
the earth digs deep within itself
to remember where it has been
and reaches high into the sky
to discover where it has yet to go