Artists’ respond, aiming to align wonder, word, and music. They lean into imagining what the tree sees in relationships, in children, and in backyard dreams. Thorburn’s tree is a witness to life in the yard, the house, in the sky above, and the buckling sidewalk below; the whole tree-is-us in our tangled roots and bent branches, our rancors and revelries, and our brittle bark tattooed by the scars of our days.
We are like every tree and its intangible roots beneath the sidewalk, reaching from yard and house to neighborhood and back again. Enmeshed below ground, trees know things and their hidden network chronicles the backyard’s rich saga: kids climbing and laughing in the branches, people in houses looking back at the tree from behind windows, and the green sky of aurora borealis above.
In our winter of pandemic and discontent, the tree is abandoned by yellowing leaves born away by freezing winds, shivering branches, and dropped to their winter-burial grounds “Everything I know I’ve learned from trees,” a friend from Michigan wrote to me the week before Christmas. I love trees too, but not everyone does; and his note reminded me of the politician who said, “When you’ve seen one redwood you’ve seen ’em all.”
I pity those who see every tree the same. It’s a different kind of poverty from the ‘poverty of spirit,’ which the Gospels praise. Bereft of wonder, one is left with a forlorn poverty of being. Such a fool, unable to appreciate music, art, poetry, or trees, may have a heart pumping lifeblood through his/her veins and arteries, but they are dull in their feeling function, incapable of beholding a Christmas tree or any tree in wonder and awe.… read more...