If Trees were Ents
If my grandmother’s backyard trees were Ents*
and could stories tell
Would they drop acorn-ringed history
of Indians walking root to root
scouting behind tree skirts
explorers, surveyors and hunters
seeking new soil for new hope
on the edges of Bear Grass Creek
where hungry bears lunched
on bankside yucca grass
Would these trees, “Baroom! Baroom!”*
and moan a lament
of once-upon-a-time bears and wildcats
following tree roots
to the yucca grass-lined creek
once bigger than a brooke,
bigger than a stream
big enough for boats
carrying new stories
Would their Ent stories
would they recall
the sounds of Long Run Massacre
of sons stake-burned
and wives scalped,
of fainting salvation
these Indian ambushes slaying
the wrestling sounds of Indians and Settlers
on these dark and bloody grounds
over these roots that reach deep
Would the footprints of La Fayette,
of Daniel Boone, of men
as brother fought brother
are they imprinted in the soil
beneath their shade, pressed into a living root?
have the footsteps and shade seekers become
a more ordinary
to what would one day become
my grandmother’s main street sidewalk
that led to her back yard
Would wooden limbs raised in praise
slump at being relegated
to backyard living
waiting for life, any life,
even two legged-life
to walk creek-stone paths
beyond forsythia hedges
and white azaleas
stuffed behind elms and oaks
these hemlocks and pines
still standing a few feet from where once a field lay
now cluttered with parking lot overgrowth
roots reaching but not finding
Bear Grass Creek,
imprisoned beneath concrete gullies and ditches
trickling through pipes
where boats cannot fit
to bring supplies, settlers and cattle
to new beginnings, new life
this Bear Grass water
not now fit for wildcats, turkeys and bears
Would their Ent stories tell
of dignity lost or redemption
of a lone little girl finding the creek stone path,
circling its leaves and limbs
to step inside foliage arms
and climb branches up high
carrying books full
of other places, like a settler seeking,
a safe adventure
not knowing the dark and bloody history
not knowing new hope history
not knowing of limbs raised in praise
just spending time together
belonging, comforting, living
one so needing to be needed
to belong to a story
one so needing a place to
Until a grandmother calls,
“You don’t know who might get you up there.
Where it’s safe.”
Alone, hedged in by change
where springtime’s violet carpet shrinks
the only thing unchanged
are limbs raised in praise
and roots reaching for
If the Trees in your backyard were Ents
What stories could they tell?
* Ents were trees that talked and walked in J.R.R. Tolkhien’s The Lord of the Rings.
**”Baroom,” dialectal pause-utterances designed to keep language “unhasty.”
The story behind “If Ents were Trees” – well, let’s be honest – if I’d had a daughter, maybe Ents wouldn’t have captured my attention – Ents being trees that walked and talked unhastily in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien’s character development found it’s way into character development lessons in our household: “Are you noble enough that Strider would have invited you to be part of the Fellowship?”
No handmaiden stories in our house, unless they were for me alone. The stories for my boys were Knights-in-Shining-Armor stories, Warriors, filled with nobleness and fighting for right.
I remember choosing rustic-looking light fixtures for our house so our boys would feel at home. Not too shabby chic or too elegant. Maybe my vocabulary and my story telling grew to fit my everyday-kitchen-counter audience.
Warrior training, the discipline and skill development of Knightly character – and even Entish creations have seeped into the marrow of my motherhood, probably to the dismay of my moms-of-daughters friends.
A few weeks ago, when I was visiting with my aunt, I’d walk for a few miles on the walking track civilization built in the field where Lafayette watered his horse when he stayed at the Inn that is now city hall. Big changes were getting ready to happen in my life. I was going to start a full-time job the next week. These visits would be harder to come by. Motherhood was going to be tweaked.
As I walked that track, I looked for blessings.
It was a blustery afternoon when I walked, and the trees tipped and swayed.
I remember smiling, walking another half a circle, when I felt someone start walking beside me.
And the trees waved and bowed – and I smiled. He had come.
“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12)
I felt God slip his arm through mine. My hand had been tucked in my pocket. And we walked together, a power-walk that suddenly felt graceful. I t was as though he pointed to the left – and there was a squirrel. A fat squirrel scampered up a tree. It reminded me of grocery store foragers before a snow storm.
It seemed like we shared a laugh, our heads bent in conversation no one could hear.
And He whispered in my mind,
“If Ents were Trees. . . .”
Suddenly, the trees became something more.
“Then the trees of the forest will sing, they will sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth” (1 Chronicles 16:33).
If stones can shout praises (The Message, Luke 19:28-40) when people won’t.
If Trees will sing for joy before the Lord (1 Chronicles 16:33), (Psalm 92:2)
This Bursting into song, “you mountains, you forests and all your trees” (Isaiah 44:23)
Then maybe there is God praise going on around us all the time.
Maybe when we take the trash outside, if we looked for the blessing, we’d see the trees praising God.
Maybe if the windows were opened at night, and we listened for the blessing, we’d hear the trees praising God.
Maybe when Lafayette watered his horse, these same trees were praising God.
That maybe, when I climbed that tree to read a book, maybe I not only interrupted a tree having Church with God but His presence wrapped around me from all that Praise.
It’s not a Cathedral, a canopy of trees. Rather, it is a chorus, a praise dance troupe, loving God creation.
And that day, as I walked arm-in-arm with God, I walked a part of this God-me relationship I hadn’t experienced before. More than a be-with-me. Not a “we’ve got to talk” moment where I listen, chastised.
An arm-walking, smile-sharing, poetry-bantering moment just between God and me.
God talks to me in the language I have been living, a mother-raising-knights-in-shining-armor-language. It’s not filled with handmaidens and pink polka dots. It’s filled with Entish things – like trees praising God while He walks with me.
“All the trees of the field will know that I the LORD bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. “‘I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it.'”(Ezekiel 17:24)