What I Learned from Bare Trees

Fall seemed to arrive late this year, and winter weather is already upon many of us. Thankfully, there’s still a good bit of color in many trees. But others are already bare.

I’ve written before about having trouble when the leaves are off, when the landscape is bleak and barren. I soak up fall’s beauty to sustain me through long, colorless winters.

But just recently, something I read touched off a search for the science behind why deciduous tress lose their leaves

  • The leaves wouldn’t survive the cold in many places.
  • Trees conserve water through the winter by purposefully dropping their leaves.
  • Leaves damaged by “insects, disease or general wear and tear,” according to this source, are made to fall off so they can be renewed again in the spring.
  • Some leaves provide resources for the plant before dropping off. According to this source, “A number of deciduous plants remove nitrogen and carbon from the foliage before they are shed and store them in the form of proteins in the vacuoles of parenchyma cells in the roots and the inner bark. In the spring, these proteins are used as a nitrogen source during the growth of new leaves or flowers.”
  • Dead leaves nourish soil.

I either didn’t know, or more likely had just forgotten learning these facts in school way back when. But it helps to know that there is a reason God created trees this way. Their loss of leaves actually protects them and helps them survive the winter and leaf out again in the spring.

Couldn’t God have made all the trees evergreen? He could have. But they’d all look like fir, spruce, or pine trees, made the way they are to survive the winter in a different way. Deciduous trees provide us with such rich color, beauty, and variety. Then they picture death, giving way to springtime resurrection. Some provide fruit in the summer.

It would be nice if the leaves could change into beautiful colors and then go back to green without dropping off, or at least get their green leaves back sooner. But there’s much they can teach us.

Sometimes loss is for our good. The things we want to hang on to would be harmful or prevent us from growing. “Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2).

Dead leaves nourish the soil which then helps the tree grow. “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

When leaves are off the trees, we can see things we couldn’t before. On our drive to church during our first fall and winter here, I discovered houses, ponds, animals, and scenery that had been hidden when the trees were leafed out.

A leafless tree “Displays a certain loveliness—The beauty of the bone (John Updike, “November”). Hebrews speaks of ” the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain (12:27). When life is stripped to its basics, we see the strength of that core of God’s truth; we see what really matters. Corrie ten Boom said, ” “You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.” Or, taken in reverse, when Christ is all you have, you find He is all you need. Thanksgiving in the midst of long nights and barren landscapes reminds us of what’s most important and what bounty we still have.

Sometimes our normal sources of provision fail us. But God provides for us through seasons of loss and barrenness. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Sometimes we have to learn to be content in doing without. “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11b-13).

Seasons of rest come between seasons of fruitfulness. No one can give out incessantly without respite. Jesus told His disciples, “’Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat” (Mark 6:31).

Life is transient. “Nothing gold can stay,” as Robert Frost said. Not only do seasons come and go, but life itself will fade from fruitfulness to winter. Hair and skin lose their color, limbs lose their strength. We echo the psalmist’s prayer: “Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come” (Psalm 71:18).This promise to Israel can be applied to God’s children now: “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:4). “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). For those who know the Lord, life’s winter will give way to eternity’s spring.

Gone, they tell me, is youth.
Gone is the strength of my life:
Nothing remains but decline,
Nothing but age and decay.

Not so, I’m God’s little child,
Only beginning to live;
Coming the years of my prime,
Coming the strength of my life;
Coming the vision of God,
Coming my bloom and my power.

~ William Newton Clarke

After the flood in Noah’s time was over, God said, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22). Thomas O’ Chisholm picked up this truth in his great hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness:

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Though seasons change,

There is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
all I have needed thy hand hath provided–
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

What do barren trees teach you?

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Hearth and Soul, Purposeful Faith, Tell His Story, Happy Now, InstaEncouragement,
Recharge Wednesday, Worth Beyond Rubies, Wise Woman,
Share a Link Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Heart Encouragement,
Faith on Fire, Faith ‘n Friends, Grace and Truth)

Winter

I had to smile at this tweet from Jen Wilkin, because I feel the same way.

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Then I just read this morning that the third Monday in January is said by some to be the most depressing day of the year, due to debt from Christmas spending hitting, having already failed at our New Year’s resolution, less daylight, more cold, etc. On the other hand, one article called that pseudoscience and another said it was made up by a travel agent trying to drum up bookings to vacation climes. I wouldn’t doubt it. 🙂

Winter is not my favorite season, and a few years ago I wrote Help For the Winter Blues, ideas of other things to focus on or do, quotes, poems, etc. Last year I reflected on Finding Beauty in Bleakness – that’s one aspect of winter I have the most trouble with, and it helped to reflect that God has purposes for even that.

So I won’t rewrite those this year, but I’ll share some other day-brightening thoughts found recently for coping with winter.

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Doesn’t that just fit?!

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I don’t know if that works, but I sure wish I had some bubble solution to try it out!

Winter fun

 

Carroll snow

Winter tree

 

 

Tolkien winter

Fireplace

“Punkin Time!”

When Timothy saw my fall decorations out, after he had squeezed or thumped all the pumpkins, he asked if it was “punkin time.” I was surprised he remembered decorating pumpkins – he’s only 3. But we hadn’t made plans for it yet and had to explain for about a week or so that we didn’t have pumpkins. Finally last Saturday we did!

Last year Jim arranged the pumpkins out in the bushes in a little “pumpkin patch” for Timothy to find, and then they put them in the wagon to bring to the house, so he did that again this year. We were eating pizza and forgot about it getting dark earlier this time of year, so it was right at dusk when we went out. But Timothy enjoyed using his little flashlight to find the “punkins.”

So we brought them inside and got to work:

The yucky part!

Timothy painted his, because of course he’s too young to handle a blade. Mittu has painted hers the last couple of years so Timothy wasn’t the only one painting. I like the designs of the carved pumpkins and the light shining through them – but I am not very good at it. The last couple I’ve done didn’t come out as I had planned and had to be fixed in some way – last year Jim held it together with toothpicks for me. So I decided to paint this year, too. It’s much easier and faster! And the painted pumpkins last longer than the carved ones. But I do still miss the carved design. I was going to paint one based on an emoji, but discovered my yellow paint was too dried up to use, so I opted for another design I’d seen that is supposed to look like Nemo.

Mittu painted one side of hers like this…

…and the other like this.

Jim chose Trump (in previous years he has done Barack and Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton). He didn’t like how it turned out, but the rest of us thought it was a good resemblance. Jason made his own template from a photo he had taken of Timothy. I thought it turned out really well!

We had an extra pumpkin because Jesse didn’t want to do one, so when I had a chance to get some more yellow paint, I tried my original idea:

I’m thankful my daughter-in-law suggested starting this tradition a few years ago. Neither my husband nor I grew up with it, so we never even thought about doing it when our kids were little. Plus I was concerned about all the evil origins of everything then, but decided in more recent years that these kinds of things aren’t generally associated with anything evil in this time and in this country.

It made for a fun evening! Best of all was when Timothy cuddled up to me later in the evening and said, “I like punkin time!”

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It’s March!

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“March is a tomboy with tousled hair, a mischievous smile, mud on her shoes and a laugh in her voice.” –  Hal Borland

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold:  when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” –   Charles Dickens

Spring Musings

March bustles in on windy feet
And sweeps my doorstep and my street.
She washes and cleans with pounding rains,
Scrubbing the earth of winter stains.
She shakes the grime from carpet green
Till naught but fresh new blades are seen.
Then, house in order, all neat as a pin,
She ushers gentle springtime in.

– Susan Reiner, Spring Cleaning

I’ve used all of these quotes before on the blog, but it has been a few years, and I wanted to share them again. I like the Borland one especially.

March sure is “coming in like a lion” here, with a severe thunderstorm warning for a good part of the day. I am hoping we don’t lose power, always a concern with this kind of weather.

We have a lot of flowers and trees budding already. I’m hoping they don’t get destroyed by a late freeze. Spring officially begins on the 20th, but I’m very much enjoying the early spring-like conditions!

I’ve got to get back to work now, but I just wanted to pop in and say I am glad it is March!

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November

 

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Photo courtesy of FreeLargeImages.com

“November — the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines.  ~ Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of the Island, Ch.25

Dull November brings the blast;
Then the leaves are whirling fast.

~ From “The Garden Year” by Sara Coleridge

Now the autumn days are gone
Frost is sparkling on the lawn,
Windows winking cheerful lights
Warm the cold November nights.

~ Author Unknown

November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.
With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.
The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.

~ Clyde Watson

November in our area isn’t quite so cold and barren as these poems express. The trees still have some color, though leaves are falling fast. We’ve had frost maybe one or two mornings but it’s in the 40s or 50s most nights so far. It’s not unheard of to get snow here in November, but we usually don’t get it until January and February. So I’m still enjoying autumn it has passed its peak. Hope you are too! Happy November!

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It’s October!

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October’s Party
by George Cooper

October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came.
The Chestnuts, Oaks and Maples,
And leaves of every name.

The Sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band.

The Chestnuts came in yellow,
The Oaks in crimson dressed;
The lovely Misses maple
In scarlet looked their best.

All balanced to their partners,
And gaily fluttered by;
The sight was like a rainbow
New fallen from the sky.

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October’s the month
When the smallest breeze
Gives us a shower
Of autumn leaves.
Bonfires and pumpkins,
Leaves sailing down –
October is red
And golden and brown.

—Author Unknown

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October leaves are lovely
They rustle when I run
Sometimes I make a heap
And jump in them for fun.

— Author Unknown

(I usually try to give credit for where the pictures I use come from, and I try to limit them to free sites. Most of these have been in my files for a long time and I am not sure where they originated, except that the top one was made with the Word Swag app.)

 

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September

September

The morrow was a bright September morn;
The earth was beautiful as if new-born;
There was that nameless splendor everywhere,
That wild exhilaration in the air,
Which makes the passers in the city street
Congratulate each other as they meet.

 ~ From the longer poem“The Falcon of Sir Federigo” from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Tales of a Wayside Inn”

Fall is coming

The golden-rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.

 By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather,
And autumn’s best of cheer.

Excerpts from Helen Hunt Jackson’s “September”

Keep calm

Departing summer hath assumed
An aspect tenderly illumed,
The gentlest look of spring;
That calls from yonder leafy shade
Unfaded, yet prepared to fade,
A timely carolling.

~  William Wordsworth, “September”

I like the line “Unfaded, yet prepared to fade” best. That about describes the leaves here. Some are just starting to turn, but it will be weeks yet before it truly looks and feels fallish. Of course, fall doesn’t officially begin until September 22 this year. But I like September as the turning point, the promise that cooler weather is coming. I’m not too eager for turning leaves and such, though I’ll enjoy then when that happens (I love the beauty, but I’m sad that it heralds the leaves turning loose all too soon). But I am looking forward to some coolness!

September used to mark the start of school, but the schools started here in early August. Since all of mine are out of school, it doesn’t affect me much any more except for trying to avoid roads in school zones at certain times a day. But I remember having mixed emotions when my kids started back: glad for a bit more structured schedule, but not looking forward to the busy-ness; glad to have the house to myself for a few hours a day, but missing their companionship.

For many, September marks the beginning of football season and pumpkin-spiced everything. We’re not big into football, but we’re in the middle of UT Vols territory, and last year we did watch a few games. I like pumpkin pie, bread, cookies, etc., but not pumpkin flavored drinks. Bleah! 🙂

September 1 is also my anniversary of contracting transverse myelitis. Hard to believe it’s been 31 years now! It started with one arm feeling a little funny, like I’d slept on it wrong. Within just a few hours that arm and both legs and my lower torso were numb. That was one of the longest days of my life, with going to one ER, being sent to a doctor’s office only to find they didn’t work with our insurance, to going to another ER and finally being admitted around 10 p.m. (it had all started around 7 a.m. or so). It was a scary time, not knowing what I’d get back and how I’d be able to function in my family. But, thank God, though there are a number of little residual symptoms, I can walk and basically have been able to do what I needed to do as a wife and mom. I wouldn’t want to go through it again, but I am so thankful for God’s nearness and help and all He taught me through it.

Summer

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Yesterday marked the first day of summer, though it has been feeling pretty summery around here for a few weeks already.

Summer doesn’t have quite the sensation of joy, freedom, and expectancy that it does when you’re a child and school is out for three glorious months. With our kids no longer in school and our grandchild not yet in school, our schedules aren’t affected much by the school schedule – except it’s nice to be able to drive without having to worry about slowing to a stop in school zones at certain times of the day. And we do have to watch out more for kids playing in or near the neighborhood street.

Yet summer still retains a bit of charm, though it’s very hot and humid here in the South. It’s the season of grilling, sitting in the pool if you’re lucky enough to have access to one (we enjoy filling up a kiddie pool for Timothy), longer days, yard work, picnics, and vacations for some.

Here are a few favorite quotes about it:

Summer is the time when it is too hot to do the jobs it was too cold to do in winter. ~ Author Unknown

 Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.  ~John Lubbock

A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.  ~James Dent

Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. ~ Warren Buffett

No price is set on the lavish summer;
June may be had by the poorest comer.
~James Russell Lowell, The Vision of Sir Launfal, 1848

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And most of my fellow Southerners can identify with this:

You know you are in the South in August when…

* The birds have to use potholders to pull worms out of the ground.

* The trees are whistling for the dogs.

* The best parking place is determined by shade instead of distance.

* Hot water now comes out of both taps.

* You can make sun tea instantly.

* You learn that a seat belt buckle makes a pretty good branding iron.

* You discover that in August it only takes 2 fingers to steer your car.

* You discover that you can get sunburned through your car window.

* You actually burn your hand opening the car door.

* You break into a sweat the instant you step outside at 7:30 am.

* Your biggest bicycle wreck fear is, “What if I get knocked out and end up
lying on the pavement and cook to death?”

* You realize that asphalt has a liquid state.

* The potatoes cook underground, so all you have to do is pull one out and add butter, salt, and pepper.

* Farmers are feeding their chickens crushed ice to keep them from laying boiled eggs.

* The cows are giving evaporated milk.

We’re experiencing some of that though it’s not August yet!

The Bible mentions summer a few times, among them:

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease. Genesis 8:22

Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter. Psalm 74:17

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8. And another one about industrious ants: The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer. Proverbs 30:25

He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame. Proverbs 10:5

As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool. Proverbs 26:1

Saddest of all: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. Jeremiah 8:20

 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Matthew 24:32-33

No hint of summer as vacation there! That helps me not to be wistful of childhood’s long summers off. That must be a modern concept: it wasn’t that long ago that kids didn’t have school in summer for the express purpose of being available to help their parents during the busiest seasons on the farm, and even now, summer is a busy time for farmers and homesteaders. It would be interesting to study summer in other cultures: for instance, in areas near the equator where it’s excessively hot, I wonder if summer if more laid back because it would be harder to function in the heat.

But the Bible does encourage times of rest as well as diligence, so I am glad summer affords time for that.

We have no special plans for the summer except for a couple of events to look forward to. With my husband’s mom here, we can’t really travel. What I call our “birthday season” begins in July: five of us have birthdays between then and mid-September. But we enjoy grilling and sitting outside in the evenings when it’s not so hot, and we look forward to my oldest son coming for a week-long visit in a few weeks. Lately our neighborhood has been getting together for a group cook-out on the 4th of July. Summer used to be reading heaven for me when I was younger, and though I can’t spend the bulk of the day in a book anymore, I still do get a bit more reading in as there is not much on TV during the summer.

What are you doing this summer?

 

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Summer memories

Sherry at Semicolon had a list of summer memories from childhood, inspiring my own:

Fans at night and nap time (no AC).

Hearing mosquitoes buzzing in my ears at night.

Chasing fireflies.

Ice cream trucks.

Fudge pops.

Trips to the beach.

Visiting DQ afterward.

Thinking my aunt’s house with central AC was so luxurious.

Running through the sprinkler.

Drinking from the hose.

Families in the neighborhood bringing out lawn chairs to their front yards in the evenings and visiting back and forth while the kids played.

My dad taking the neighborhood kids on rides on his motor scooter.

Taking trips with my grandmother to visit my aunts and uncles and cousins.

Riding bikes everywhere.

Walking barefoot outside, being a real tenderfoot at the beginning of the summer and calloused by the end.

Stepping on the occasional cocklebur (or something like it – ours were flatter).

My birthday, sometimes celebrating it with three other cousins with birthdays in the same month.

Asking my mom what watermelon tasted like. She told me to try a piece if I wanted to find out. I finally did. We used to put salt on it.

Popsicles dribbling down our chins.

Going with friends to the pool.

Chinaberry fights (playful ones, not angry ones). We had enough chinaberry trees in the back yard for each kid to climb one, and we’d toss the berries at each other.

Vacation Bible School.

Playing tag, freeze tag, statue tag, Mother May I.

Sunburns.

Family reunions.

Taking glass bottle to turn in at the store for change.

Corn on the cob dripping with butter.

My dad barbecuing on the grill he made himself from a barrel.

Sleeping in.

Nehi Cola in grape, orange, and strawberry.

June bugs caught in the front screen door.

What are some of your summer memories?

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Waiting For Spring

Though cloudy skies, and northern blasts,
Retard the gentle spring awhile;
The sun will conqu’ror prove at last,
And nature wear a vernal smile.

The promise, which from age to age,
Has brought the changing seasons round;
Again shall calm the winter’s rage,
Perfume the air, and paint the ground.

The virtue of that first command,
I know still does, and will prevail;
That while the earth itself shall stand,
The spring and summer shall not fail.

Such changes are for us decreed;
Believers have their winters too;
But spring shall certainly succeed,
And all their former life renew.

Winter and spring have each their use,
And each, in turn, his people know;
One kills the weeds their hearts produce,
The other makes their graces grow.

Though like dead trees awhile they seem,
Yet having life within their root,
The welcome spring’s reviving beam
Draws forth their blossoms, leaves, and fruit.

But if the tree indeed be dead,
It feels no change, though spring return,
Its leafless naked, barren head,
Proclaims it only fit to burn.

Dear LORD, afford our souls a spring,
Thou know’st our winter has been long;
Shine forth, and warm our hearts to sing,
And thy rich grace shall be our song.

-John Newton, 1779, from Olney Hymns, vol. 2, hymn 31