This morning when I take Bonnie out I see the fog has misted over the hills that edge up against our little valley. I listen to the song of a robin. I watch a titmouse flit away before our stepping. I have a box of stale cheerios in my hands and I thread them one-by-one over the maple’s branchy fingers, as one would bestow a wedding band.

“With this ring, I thee wed,” I whisper to the naked bones of my beloved.

Beldon Lane, in his beautiful book Ravished by Beauty: The Surprising Legacy of Reformed Spirituality, makes a strong case for the inclusion of trees in the Communio Sanctorum, the communion of the faithful.

The article of the creed pertaining to the Communio Sanctorum traditionally speaks of a fellowship (or koinonia) among God’s people—the ones who intercede for one another in prayer and deed. It includes those in heaven (the church triumphant) and those on earth (the church militant), and refers to a ‘communion in holy things.’ It focuses on the community of peoples gathered at table with the risen Lord. Theologians since Vatican II have asked how this communion extends beyond the church into the kingdom as a whole. The cosmic Christ of Colossians 1:15 summons all creation to a deeper unity. With leaves in his hair and seedlings in hand, he gathers great blue whales and whooping cranes, passenger pigeons and maidenhair ferns to join with human beings in a common song of praise to God.”

He says, “If Deuteronomy expresses concern that fruit trees not be harmed in the siege of a city (20:19), if the Psalmist speaks repeatedly of a tree ‘planted in the very house of the Lord’ (Ps. 52:10; 92:14), if we’re told that a tree grows in the heart of the New Jerusalem, its leaves meant for the healing of nations (Rev. 22:2), then why not recognize trees as participating in the company of the saints?”

I watch light arrive and touch the branches of my maple. She is warmed, lit from tip to bole. I think about her language, how she speaks as we do—as Lane says, “through a process of wind passing over cords or membranes like leaves.” I listen for her song and something in my spirit is at home. The trees have long been our friends—oxygen makers, shade-givers, root teachers … ah, these with the limbs always reaching for God. Beauty learns from her simple grace.

I stand beneath her, a child-bride, in braids and a white dress—born into this world dancing. Her nakedness makes me long to crawl into my Father’s lap, bury my face in warm skin.

Standing still in this way, I can almost feel the earth move under my feet; the very cells of my body tuned to the song of the cosmos. This is the gift of the small. I have no word to name my new year. I only know this will be the year of small, a year of noticing the seemingly insignificant. For God is changing me. What has worked before no longer quickens the heart. And so I turn my face toward this beautiful and terrible wind. If I am small enough, it will carry me far. Like the tree, I will not try to be anything other than that which I am.

Let this be the year, the lifetime, the month, the week, the day … let this be the moment of becoming what I already am.


  1. Paula Gamble says

    This is so beautiful, Laura! “Let this be the moment of becoming what I already am,” yes! Just like the trees stand tall and reach towards the Heavens, we can keep our heads up and reach towards the Son.

  2. says

    I just loved this, Laura. The trees do, indeed, speak. The cottonwood in my front yard is the most vocal. I rarely understand what she’s saying, but I always listen and feel strangely content when she speaks. The oaks don’t chatter as much, being older, I think. But I lean into them anyway and try to love them into speech. I often sit quietly among their branches and listen. Even when my ears do not hear, my soul does. And is satisfied. Sabbath blessings to you, my friend!

  3. says

    Laura — another score out of the park! This is beauty simplified and glorified in its expressed simplicity. And your words speak to my heart, reiterating what just this morning I was sharing with Father — how small is truly big, and how I yearn for that more and more in my life. I read with eager interest today Abraham Cowley’s essay “Of Greatness” in which he says — “I confess I love littleness almost in all things,” and further talks about paring “away all the vanity” and finding “natural contentment” in less…and “If, indeed, we look only upon the flourishing head of the tree, it appears a most beautiful object”… From my little valley in New York to yours in West Virginia, blessings and hugs!!

  4. says

    Laura, You write so beautifully and I love beautiful writing. I was thrilled to read about the significance of trees. Trees have always been important to me. I grew up in a troubled home in the middle of the woods. The trees were my friends. I find strength and comfort when I am among trees; I feel closest to God when in the woods. My friends often tease me when looking through my photos after I return from a trip; I seem to take lots of pictures of trees. But aren’t they so interesting? There are so many different colors of bark and varied textures. Keep up the writing. It is a joy to read and a blessing!

  5. says

    Visiting here by way of my online friend, June. Love this line, “For God is changing me . . . ” Really isn’t this what we all pray for? That we will grow and change to delight both ourselves and God. Your thoughtful words and crisp, clear images of trees have quieted my heart from the anxieties of this life, and I thank you.


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