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.