“But only God can make a tree.” It’s the last line of Joyce Kilmer’s 1913 poem, Trees. It was the only line I could remember while I was out kayaking for the last time this year. It was wonderful to see the trees in the various shades of color and stages of losing their leaves. Being out on the water is a great time to contemplate and I couldn’t help noticing the cycle of the trees.
The first buds of the trees are exciting since they herald spring is here. The new greenery is a welcome sight of new life. We enjoy the longer days of sunshine and look forward to summer. Those buds turn into the branches and leaves that shade us during the hot summer months and provide cooling breezes. Dressed in leaves, they are a fullness of their being and what comes to mind when we think of a tree.
Autumn’s dazzling display of reds, yellows and oranges is like nature’s fireworks show, where the color explodes off the trees as the leaves fall. The trees’ bare branches in winter allow the sun to warm us on cold days. Through each season God arrays the trees in natural beauty, even in the winter God does not leave the trees bare. He sends snow to blanket the limbs from time to time. Each turn of the season the trees provide for us by just being trees.
Trees mirror the cycle of spirituality as well. The tree’s winter is an introspective time, when we look inside ourselves and ask where we are in our spiritual journey. The question is more about ‘what can I do to become closer to God.’ The springtime bud is the beginning of action when we seek out what we need on our next step on the journey.
Summer is taking action, allowing it to become part of our being. It could be as simple as saying the rosary daily, or a deeper action to volunteer at a shelter, soup kitchen or hospital. The tree shedding its leaves is our reminder to shed the thoughts and actions that prohibit us from moving forward in our spiritual journey. Sometimes it can be an outcome of the actions we take to get closer to God. Other times it requires conscientious effort.
While the cycle of trees is based on the climate and seasons, a spiritual cycle is not tied to any particular time. The Church encourages the cycles of the spiritual journey with the seasons of Lent, Easter, Advent and Christmas, but you do not need to wait until then. Where are you in spiritual journey cycle?