“I think that I shall never see/A poem lovely as a tree.” That’s undoubtedly Joyce Kilmer’s most well-known line of poetry from his appropriately named poem, “Trees.” This weekend my family and I had several trees taken down from around our house. The reason is that the biggest of the trees, a slice of which is pictured here, was beginning to rot. Limbs had begun falling upon our roof when winds grew strong, as they are wont to do in our neck of the woods.
Where we are is quite hilly, and when the winds race across the ridges and into the ravines, and then up from the hollows and through the tall oaks and pines which tower over the house, they get your attention, I promise. You realize weather alters landscape life, animal life, and family life. You find yourself looking skyward and speaking. Country folks might be known to have exclaimed, “The Lord is talkin’.”
Pictured below is a slice of a mighty oak that is now cut up in pieces to be hauled away. I didn’t want to have this one, or any of the other oaks, cut. I love oaks. I’ve been a tree hound for as long as I can remember, and oaks are my favorites. But this giant had lived his life and was beginning to rot and lose his limbs, so it was time for him to go.
My wife and I watched through the front door window as the men with hard hats, ropes, Stihl chainsaws, and lean muscles took the trees down. Limb by limb, section by section, guy wires pulled by seasoned men who seemed to understand all things trees, the whole scene captivated us.
The leader of the tree crew was a very kind man. After I awkwardly apologized for staring at them, he said, “Don’t worry. Some folks have pulled up their lawn chairs and watched us all day. We just appreciate your business and y’all calling us.” I liked him even more after he spoke. He loved what he did. He studied the angle of the tree, its strong and weak areas. You could see his mind working the whole time. In his fifties, he still worked like a twenty-something. His skin was leathery from years of sun; his hands were strong; he had Popeye forearms from working with chainsaws for years. His saw seemed a natural extension of his mind, the tool for a tree craftsman.
Eventually all the trees were brought down. A part of me was sad to see them come down, but it had to be for the safety of my house and family. The piece pictured here is impressive. It’s the circumference of one section. I could smell the freshly cut oak. It’s one of the sweetest smells I know: timber.
I looked at the colors, too–how they went from tan, chestnut, beige, brown, black, toffee, honey-colored, etc. And the rings, too. The more you study trees, the more there is to learn–their age, the ways they reproduce, how much light they need, why they grow where they do, the reasons they’re so valuable, et al.
Scripture is filled with tree imagery. God put trees in Eden (Genesis 1:11; 2:9). Christ was crucified upon a tree (1 Peter 2:24). The verses Leviticus 26:3-4 continually strike me: “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.”
Joyce Kilmer struck a chord in his poem. If trees can be so beautiful, how much more beautiful is their Maker?