Park City, KS. Dawn’s new light touches the clouds turning their dark greys and blues into shades of golds and whites. The cool air barely brushes my cheek as I stand beneath my maple tree and look up. The crooked and jagged fingers fan out and up, touched every few inches by swaddled green. The leaves, like the morning, are holding their breath, waiting to begin. Through the twisted order of branch, twig, and budding leaf, the sky brightens, and I wonder if this day will entice the first leaf from hiding. I look beyond the leaves and remember last year’s first leaf arriving much later; my mind wanders back further to the first leaves I beheld on this tree, and yet my mind steps beyond experiential memory to the memory of the mother of my tree that undoubtedly bore leaves, and its mother, and its mother before that, and so on, all bringing forth new leaf and life in their own time and place, never rushing, always doing what was required.
As the sun emerges from the horizon and clouds, I step back from my tree and gaze at its long shadow. My mind skips to sweltering months ahead, and I long for a larger shadow with which to battle the heat, but a tree’s progress cannot be rushed. Yes, I can encourage with fertilizer, water, and pruning, but I must wait for the tree to respond, year after year, new leaf after new leaf. I think of the joys a larger tree would provide: inviting various chattering birds to sing the night into day and allowing the breeze to strike the summer sun’s oppression, but these wishes must wait for many more first leaves.
I examine the lower branches and calculate which need trimming this coming winter to aid a more hasty growth, and I chuckle. I hear Treebeard’s voice calling forth, “Now don’t be hasty.” Indeed trees are not a hasty folk nor do they bend their will to the mechanisms of modern life. They sprout, grow, and require time to fulfill man’s longings and uses: coveting shade, needing lumber, and wishing for winged music must wait patiently for time and nourishment to do their good work.
If only I had the patience of trees; if only I let time inch me, push me, stretch me ever upward, defying gravity’s pull. My demand for instant responses mocks the good work of time. Trees chasten my fleeting desires that dart hither and thither by slowly pressing, intentionally pushing, and inevitably plodding upward.
I walk across my lawn and in my flowerbed I see a small sproutling. I look back at my maple tree now gently shifting with a rising breeze, and I smile. Not only does a tree press steadily upward, it leaves behind another to take its place. My mind returns to the leaf of memory that far outstrips my own. After all, it was a tree that bore the Fruit of Knowledge untimely plucked. Each tree, from my maple back all the way back to that fateful tree, left a sproutling to endure the long defeat brought about by untimely gratification. Year after year, leaves have budded on the twig, flittered in the breeze, and fluttered to the ground to be replaced the following year. In my haste to leap outside the grips of time, I fail to participate in what trees never forget—slow and patient progress in the right direction is more to be wished than sudden fulfillment of desire. The progress gained through patience lasts beyond merely one leaf, or one tree.