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Trees



The inspiration for this post came from a 40 year old article I found about an interview with an iconic actress. The article captured my attention because of the connection the woman being interviewed made between humans and nature. Plus, she is one of my favorite actresses. The content and introspection I offer is certainly unusual. So, please hang in with me as I seek to make sense of how the nature of trees parallels with the relational tendencies of humans. My conclusion left me with a greater sense of wonder and awe for the Creator of Life, and how important it is to pause and reflect on the unique and unexpected parallels of life. It is my belief these parallels can serve as safety nets, hold answers to many of life's confusing questions related to relationships, and provide opportunities for self-reflection and personal growth.


One of my favorite actresses has always been Katherine Hepburn. Her depiction of the strong-willed, tea totaling, Rose, in The African Queen, captivated my admiration as a very young girl. Why, I am not sure! Perhaps it was her portrayal of a stubborn-minded woman who wouldn't take "No" for an answer... Probably not! I recently read an interview she gave Barbara Walters in1981. In the interview, she described how she "categorized" people in accordance with their relational traits to trees. She told how she would often compare the parallels between people and trees upon her first impressions of new acquaintances. She explained that her conclusions influenced her relationships with them moving forward. She referred to this way of analyzing people as her "system." She explained that this system had never proven to be wrong and served her well throughout her life. It served to provide direction regarding those with whom she would be safe in a relationship, and those with whom she should proceed with caution, realizing danger could be lurking in the shadow of their path. Ms. Hepburn provided further clarification of this system by telling Ms. Walters she considered herself to be like an oak tree, "big, strong, and deeply rooted." She made this way of comparing God's creation of humans to God's creation of nature intriguing. So, when I read the words of this interview, I decided to spend some time pondering the character similarities between the two. I began by thinking abut the different kind of trees around which I grew up in the southern states. I spent much time in the woods near my home, and three particular trees came to mind straight away...the pine, the sycamore, and of course, the oak tree.


There were many pine trees where I grew up as a child. They were tall, majestic, and what I would consider to be beautiful. They grew in abundant groves around our property. The shade from the pine trees was welcomed in the summer, the sap annoying in the spring, and the falling of needles and cones delightful in the fall. They had much to offer in good weather. They held danger in store for those around during the frequent episodes of bad weather. This is because their roots were shallow and they were easily toppled from a moderate wind. They fell through roofs and destroyed anything in their path during a common southern thunderstorm. They left destruction and recovery in the aftermath of a moderate to heavy wind producing event. To avoid this predictable occurrence, pine trees were removed from areas near homes and outdoor structures. They were enjoyed as a welcomed presence at a distance, but cautiously removed from close proximity to vulnerable property to avoid imminent harm. Winds will come...


There were also sycamore trees near my childhood home. They were scattered and grew more sparsely in our area of the country. They were beautiful as well. The sycamore leaves resembled the harmless leaves of a maple tree...but they were not as they appeared! The fruit of this tree resembled the sweet fruit of a fig tree...but they were not as they appeared! I had been taught at an early age not to be deceived by it's allure. I was instructed to avoid this tree because it was not as it appeared. It was a poisonous tree. The seeds and leaves could be harmful if ingested or allowed to absorbed through the skin with prolonged exposure. I was warned to stay a pace away! I could admire from a distance. Getting too close could cause harm! Prolonged close contact with anything of this deceiving and toxic nature would certainly equal pain. A life lesson which encompasses any thing of a parallel nature...


And of course, the oak tree grew generously in the south. I would often seek out the shade of this tree and enjoy the peaceful and vast relief it provided during the long hot days of summer months. The limbs of these trees were strong and provided hours of climbing enjoyment. I trusted the limbs of the oak because they were sturdy and dependable. I did not have to fear they would break under me, leaving me vulnerable to a painful fall. I knew that the heights to which I could climb a solid oak tree were limited only by the distance from which I feared falling. There were many oaks near my home that were hundreds of years old. One the rare occasion I would happen upon a fallen oak tree, the rings circling from the middle of the trunk to the outer bark gave testament to it's age and longevity. The oak was a dependable tree, not given to disruption even in heavy winds or strong storms. It was not easily swayed...


As I reflected on how I would delight in the raining down of the needles and cones of the pine tree in the fall, yet fear it's fragility during a wind, I considered my own parallels to this tree. As I thought about how I enjoyed the distant beauty of the leaves and fruit of the sycamore tree, knowing close contact would be harmful, I questioned my own tendencies to similarities. And lastly, while remembering the trust I placed in the steadfast strength of the oak limbs while climbing the branches to reach new heights, I wondered if I possess any commonalities of this tree. What similarities do I possess, and how do I extend those traits to the good or harm of others? I believe it is a question which deserves pondering


A random article about a random interview with one of my favorite actresses created a pause for me to reflect on the parallels of life. It birthed a greater wonder and awe in my soul for the God of Heaven and Earth, and how He created human life to parallel nature. The beautiful nature we are all given to enjoy, some with more caution than others. Some providing more safety and relief than others. The similarities aren't intended to be confusing, they are beautiful, they are striking, they are convicting. These parallels, when given close consideration, can serve as a means of safety and give answers for clarity. And I believe, they can certainly provide those much needed insights leading to greater personal growth in areas vital to establishing and maintaining more meaningful relationships.

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