Tree Lineage

by EllenK on May 22, 2013

I wrote this blog post as a guest for www.TracieNichols.com. Tracie works closely with all things natural and beautiful.

I know I come from a magnificent family – magnificent in simple, every day ways.  Both parents were amateur chamber musicians and professional educators (my Dad at universities, my Mom in elementary schools).  Both were dedicated to our family, intent on seeing the world, always wanting to learn, share and show, and never willing to stop enjoying good music, good company, good food.  I never saw them happier than when they watched their grandchildren play together or be recognized for their musical, artistic, or educational talents.

But when I think about my parents and their parents, I have been so deeply saddened by what seemed to be lives cut short.  I have yearned to have my grandmother “Nana” back, along with “Umple Jim” so that maybe they could truly reconcile the short life of my Grandfather Paul (who died when my mother was just 18), so that maybe Mom could learn how to love with fewer conditions attached.  I have yearned to meet my other Grandmother too – to ask her about what might have made her transition to the US from Nazi Germany just a little bit fun – to tell her and show her what a wonderful opportunity she provided through her brave act – how successful my Dad has been, how happy he has made his whole family – how much fun WE have had, enjoying all the freedoms of being American in the 1940’s and on.

Doodle-Portrait by Ellen-K

Doodle-Portrait by Ellen-K

And I have truly longed to be with my Dad again, walking in the moonlight, enjoying his conversations with Mom, listening to the beautiful music they made together, playing backgammon late at night, discussing current events, traveling and just “hanging out.”

One day, in my search for the next steps – my “job” since losing Dad in 2010 – I took the short drive up the hill, through the woods, breathing in the beautiful scene at the edge of the woods before diving down into the valley, joining the cows and the trees and the cornstalks as they rustled around the creek.  I pulled out a camping chair and journal and cameras and settled at the edge of the creek. I looked up from my chair and began to notice the trees there by the side of the cow pasture:  one was old and no longer alive itself, but so covered in vines, it looked very much alive.  Fascinating to see, with a pole cut off and attached somehow to one side of the trunk, reaching way into the sky.  As I followed it with my little video cam, a hawk soared over my head, visible through the bare branches.

Then I noticed the tree next to this wise old Being.  THIS tree was fully decked in bright green leaves.  It had a thick trunk, but seemed shorter and younger than the fascinating old one.  I wouldn’t have paid any attention to it if it weren’t for its wizened meandering neighbor.  But as I scanned it, I realized that it was also covered in vines.  Only these were NOT alive.  And it was growing in a determined direction, away from the big old wise tree, reaching for the sun and the pasture and the creek.

I spoke into the video cam:

Doodle Collage by Ellen-K

Doodle Collage by Ellen-K

“Those vines are alive but the tree is dead;

Those vines are dead but the tree is alive.”

I felt a strong message from these two trees:  Like my parents and grandparents, the big old tree did the best it could, and BOY did it have an interesting life!  Like the big old tree, my parents and grandparents allowed all kinds of things to piggy-back, to take a little away from their own growth and expansion.  But at the same time, all of this sacrifice added to their own experience, and they left a lasting imprint on each of us, all the co-habitants who shared their timeline with them.

Now this younger tree: it’s reaching up higher.  It has adapted to the changes brought in by the creek, and the crops, and the cows, and the homes in the area.  It is singing a whole new kind of song.  And as it grows, it is sheltering the big old tree itself, keeping it from attracting lightning or hurricane-strength winds or bulldozers.

Now my own daughters are looking back at me, as they begin to stretch into their own dreams.  And I am truly content, here by the creek with the hawks and the flowers, savoring the gifts passed on through me from the many who have come and gone before me.  Because I am a lively tree – I have stretched my roots so I can DANCE.

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