Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Tree and the Air That We Breathe

The massive old trunk has been rooted right here in this spot for some eighty years, maybe more. Liquidambar styraciflua, sweet gum. 
So named by humans for the "liquid amber" which flows from its flesh when wounded, early European visitors to North America spoke of the sap's pleasing aroma when burned, and it has long been a commercially important timber species.

But today, standing here in silent communion with this magnificent individual, 
we ponder the sweet gum as a fellow living being, 
child of a shared Creator;

a healthy, mature deciduous tree in its prime, 
awakening, as it were, from a long winter's nap.

A profusion of blossoms;
hundreds of delicate snowball clusters,
fertile, alive, beautiful!

Each flower cluster attended by a tiny dangling "gum ball", 
repository for fifty or more tiny tree seeds,
part of this year's crop of thousands,
most of which will become food for fellow creatures, 

a few of which might someday take root in the soil below and become tiny saplings,
and then,

...who knows...

And don't forget the leaves, 
tender, gloriously green stars,
dancing in the brisk spring breeze, 

as though to break free from their terrestrial tethers and ascend, 
swirling gaily, 
straight up into the bright blue heavens above.

And as we stand in wonder before this complex and beautiful organism, 
we breath a silent prayer of gratitude,
for life, and beauty, and the very air we breathe,
and for this amazing creature,
whose dancing leaves of green renew the depleted air,
making possible our next life-giving breath...

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