- Sonya Leigh Anderson
Life with Trees
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”
Seven months ago my husband and I moved to the woods. Our house sits on a hill overlooking water, and it was the lake that first drew us to the lot where we’d eventually build our home. But before the foundation was poured, I’d already made up my mind. It was the trees I’d love most. Our oaks and basswood, grove of aspen, old-man white pine and scattering of youth. Across the street, a stunning forest, its hidden paths inviting walks in fall and winter, now an explosion of green from my kitchen window. And just last weekend our grass arrived, turning our sandbox into a garden.
But alas. A reminder, I suppose, that we are not in Eden, a solid month from mid-April to very recent, my poor sinuses have sorely despised my haven of trees. And my husband has yet another case of poison ivy.
We live in this tension, story of two trees.
Last week I had my first Zoom call with a potential publisher. After several months of making it a priority, I am ready to find out what’s next. And my book begins in a garden…
There was no end to this garden of discovery. Under every leaf, around each bend, new surprises were revealed. It was as if He had prepared each intricate detail to present as a gift to these cherished companions. Everything was good, created with purpose, given to nourish and sustain. And everything had a name in this garden paradise. Some names were given by the Creator. Others he left to the imagination of the man himself. Even trees had names.
This is the story we enter. And of course, it is my story, too…
My childhood was pinesap and weeping willows. The tang of berries, picked with permission from an endless tangle of strawberry plants. Raspberries gleaned freely from the bean field hedge. Cooling wind against sun-kissed shoulders. Farm dogs barking, and Mom’s CB radio calling us in for “dinner” at noon. And everything green.
Here I am, years later, first summer in our new location, admitting to bit of obsession when it comes to trees. Not just the 360 degree view of our veritable jungle out every window, but I’ve been captivated fresh by this ancient story, and what it means.
The two trees were gifts, and so were the instructions…
Thus begins my own book, which is of course, the Bible’s story. The tree of life becomes the symbol of eternal existence. Eat of this tree and live. But alas. The other tree—tree of the knowledge of good and evil—the forbidden tree that leads to death. And the trees were gifts, as were the instructions…
Of this story, I’ve written before.
But this week, an epiphany of sorts. I’d been out for a run, listening to a podcast. And this:
“When the first humans ate the forbidden fruit, God in his mercy blocked the way to the eternal tree. Now the only way a human can live forever is to eat again from the fruit of the Tree of Life.”
In His mercy.
Barred the way.
Oh God, how I love this story.
Some days, despite my own endless pile of Kleenex, and my husband’s oozing rash, I consider this near-paradise God has lavished on us and I shake my head in wonder. He who gives such gracious gifts, invites us also, to bear His fruit. Just this morning, I sit on my porch, and I read this text:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:5-8
My husband and I might be “empty nest” and grandparents, too, but we are not yet admitting to old age. We are enjoying these years of hard work and strong bodies, while considering, too, what it looks like to be faithful in every season. How can we who have eaten freely of the Tree of Life, share our fruit generously, and with wisdom?
Flourishing like the palm tree.
Growing like the cedar.
Still bearing fruit. Staying fresh and green.
This morning my trees are alive with birds—God’s tiniest creatures heralding the day with loudest praises. And this, surely, is a good place to start. To take my cue from those closest to the heavens—to use my voice, my pen, my fruit-bearing life—declaring HIS PRAISE.
Here in this world, caught between two trees, I make up my mind, again, today, to eat my fill of the life-giving tree, the ONE who offers His own life to me, that I may flourish, bearing His fruit. And I invite YOU to eat of it, too.
And of course, you are always welcome to come on over and enjoy our trees. Just stay on the paths and you'll be safe from that poison ivy (: