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Trees and Spirits

This meditation has to do with two trees which have stood in our front lawn since we planted them over seventeen years ago.

My parents lived in Arizona for the last 25 years of their lives. Since my sister lived in Africa and then California, and I live in Pennsylvania, they had no immediate family near them. So the question naturally arose about where they were to be buried.

Dad died in 1992 and Mother in 1993, both aged 86. Their ashes were shipped to me, and we decided to plant trees in our front lawn as memorials to their long and active lives. So we bought a maple sapling in 1992 and ceremoniously placed Dad's ashes under it roots. A year later, we bought what we thought was an identical tree, and buried Mother's ashes beneath it, 35 feet away from Dad's tree. And there they stand today, together as they had always been during their 61 years of marriage.

Several years ago, I began to notice something unusual. The trees had been a mere ten feet high when we planted them, and I could easily get the fingers of one hand around their trunks. Today, those trunks are too big to encircle even with both hands. However, what has become apparent is that both trees have taken on the characteristics of the people whose ashes are buried beneath them.

Mother was an artist, an elegant lady who dressed well and was always perfectly groomed. She was the dominant figure in their relationship, and overshadowed Dad in most ways. He was a quiet, inarticulate man, a hard worker who doted on my mother and spent much of his time catering to her needs.

What we noticed was that, though her tree was a year younger than his, after fifteen years it was taller by half, full and beautifully shaped, and gorgeously colored in the fall. Dad's tree, by contrast, was smaller, less flamboyant, and altogether subordinate to its partner.

But the final point, as if to make this phenomenon undeniable, is that my father was bald. Several years ago, the top of his tree began dying, to the point where it was totally without leaves, although the rest of the tree looked normal and healthy. The tree had become bald! It was serious enough that we had to have the tree reshaped to get rid of this dead area. Now, the contrast between the two trees is even more dramatic - Mother is something grand to behold, and greatly overshadows her shrunken and humble spouse.

Coincidence, you say. Perhaps. But it does make one wonder. We are spirits, one with God and one with each other. Trees are also composed of energy, spirit, the same kind of essence as we are. All of creation is spirit, a truth which our Native American brothers understood much more clearly than we do. Is it possible that human thoughts can influence non-human elements of nature, that our spirit can become one with the spirit of a tree?

Copyright: John W. Sloat 2010