Heartwood 005

By Troy Bishopp

Six years ago I wrote a very personal reflection about farm monuments. (http://onpasture.com/2014/05/26/farm-monuments/)  In it I described our massive, 100 year old Elm tree’s resilience and strength coming from its foundational heartwood.  Even though Dutch elm disease and a lightning strike claimed her life, she has provided a standing testament of perseverance and hope as I acknowledge her morning silhouette every morning from my window.  Author Hal Borland aptly said, “Knowing trees makes you appreciate patience”.

Back then I wrote, “It looks as though this giving tree will remain despite all the forces to knock her over. This piece of mother-wood gives me inner strength because it forces me to remember the past and hold on to its calling from Mother Nature”.

You’re probably wondering what all this has to do with Christmas?

Sadly, and I mean to the point of tears, we lost our beloved great grandmother elm to a fierce, pre-black Friday November windstorm. There she lay on the ground in one incredible piece like a great whale beached.  As I felt her worn, wrinkled cambium and wept over her reddish heartwood lying upon the earth, I awakened to the reason for the season. 029

It is a time when God shows his great love and understanding for us by providing a period of healing, renewed strength and celebration of a new life.  Quoting Isaiah 11:1, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”

When I think about the symbolism of that majestic tree’s life, I can’t help but appreciate its humbleness and how it serves as a reminder for all who have come before me with human and animal heartwood. I draw pillars of strength as her former branches borne fledglings and protected cattle from the sun’s rays as well as sequestering water, minerals and carbon for the above and underground flora and fauna.  She was whole.

The celebration of Christ’s grace, joy and peace is alive and well at the farm today despite her bark going back to the earth. In the true spirit of Christmas, her legacy has found a place in our wetland as two new saplings have propagated against all odds of growing.  The seeds of hope and faith have been sown so the next generations can enjoy the heart-wood for the next 100 years.

“The trees are God’s great alphabet: With them he writes in shining green, across the world his thoughts serene.” ~ Leonora Speyer. Peace be with you and happy holidays.  GW

Published in Country Folks by Lee Publications