I just started reading a book last night that has as secondary characters...trees. Now they aren't talking, moving trees like the Ents in Lord of the Rings. Nor are they foul, haunted creatures like in the Wizard of Oz. But the opening scene has the main character swinging from a tree branch, trying to get up enough momentum to swing across to the tree beside it, nearly five feet away. It is his fourth attempt. He's failed in various ways three times before. As he is doing so, the caretaker of the grove finds him and tries to smack him with a stick to get down. The boy is actually successful, despited the caretaker's abuse. Pleased with his attempt, the boy later uses this new skill to climb the nearby towering cliff, where he knows something precious is hidden.
As the story continues, we see the importance of the trees and the grove. They provide food, fuel and livelihood to the community. They have cultural significance in the greater world they live in; one single fruit is worth much when taken to other communities that don't have groves such as theirs.
I started thinking about trees and all they provide. Food, of course, we receive from trees such as Apple, Pear, Cherry, Orange and other citrus varieties. But we also receive spices from the bark of Cinnamon. Vanilla comes from seed pods on a tree. The Nutmeg tree provides both nutmeg and mace. And of course the most important (*wink*) the Cocoa tree providing the source of chocolate.
They provide shelter, both in building materials as well as being great wind breaks and shading our houses and neighborhoods.Even if our houses do not have a wood exterior, most likely some or all of the framing is made of wooden trusses. And when there is a home improvement or repair project, we usually find ourselves in the lumberyard, picking out the lengths we need to finish the project.
Trees provide us with so many things, we often forget them all. We use branches, pine cones and cut pieces of wood for fire, a basic necessity since the first people on earth. Various kinds of paper were invented using the bark or pulp of trees. Around the world, people have harvested oil from the Olive tree, rubber from the Rubber tree and collected silk from mulberry leaves and silkworms . We harvest many varieties of nuts from trees in all corners of the world.
We have used trees to provide us with means of travel since the earliest dug-out canoe and simple chariot. Basic wagons and elaborate carriages have developed from thence. Watercraft advanced throughout the ages concluding with immense ships holding hundreds of men, carrying vast amounts of cargo and even circumnavigating the globe.
But this morning, I was reading in my scriptures a few verses in the Book of Mormon, when the prophet Lehi had a night vision in which he saw the love and mercy of God symbolized in the form of a tree. It represented the Savior himself.
"...I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.
And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof: and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.
And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable about all other fruit."
(1 Nephi 8:10-12)
With all that God and Jesus have given us on this beautiful world they created, they knew that it could not provide us with everything. True, we can harvest food, shelter, warmth and even clothing from trees and other growing things. They can help us to stay alive, but they cannot give us Life. Only through Jesus Christ can we receive Everlasting Life. "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life," he said. (John 14:6)
But we cannot receive the joy, the Life, he intends for us, if we just walk aimlessly beneath his spreading branches. But if we come into his loving embrace and grasp the fruit he has provided, partake of it, feast on its sweetness and then turn to share it with others, we are promised Joy.
Joy! Wow, I could always use more of that.
So today, I've been reflecting on the amazing miracle of trees, all they provide and offer us. And I'm remembering the invitation to come, follow, partake, drink, choose, love and enjoy. I think I'll accept that invitation. How about you?