In the seven and a half years since that photo was taken, the grandparents are older and one has died; teenagers have become grown ups; their mom and I divorced and I no longer live in that house. Even the tree in the background of that photo is no longer there: it died from disease and I eventually cut it down.
Yesterday I planted a tree in my yard, at my new house in Michigan: a Japanese Maple. I did the planting with fertilizer and also with ritual, adding sage and echinacea to the soil; saying prayers to the four directions before and after planting; creating a circle of stones around the tree. Planting a tree is a sacred act, a way of faithfully connecting with the future.The tree is leafy, red and gorgeous, and stands a little taller than I do.
When I cut down the dead tree in Ohio I decided to keep the trunk, cutting off the limbs and sripping the bark to create a staff. The staff is curvy, strong and smooth, and stands a little taller than I do. When I make a sacred promise to myself, or perform other rituals, I use this staff, connecting me to Mother Earth.
The living tree in my yard contains the magic of growing: of taking in sunlight and water and air and turning them into beauty and life. The wooden staff in my living room contains magic as well: years of life and growth made solid, a strength and rootedness I can hold in my hand. Maybe it is just me, but I guess this is true for many of us: living things (loved ones, pets, plants in the garden) connect us with the present and point toward the future; special objects that we possess (photographs, jewelry, a piece of pottery) connect us with the past through memory and love.
May trees grow and flourish in abundance.
May beauty surround us, may it be the constant background of our lives.
May we rejoice in the cycles of life: birth, growth and death–and may we be rooted in the present even as we connect to the past and the future.
May it be so.
Rev. Andrew Frantz