Friday, February 19, 2010

Reagan Generation Tree

If you follow my Healing Morning Facebook Fan Page, or if you've been subscribed to my Healing Morning blog for a while, you'll recognize the photo image here. It is a view from beneath the sprawling limbs of a huge elm tree on my Grandpa Reagan's property.

To give you a better perspective of the sheer size of this tree, here is another image. Forgive the darkness; both photos were taken at twilight. I was struck by the raw beauty of the barren limbs, stark against the wild, winter sky.

Why is this tree the focus of a blog post? You see a photo of the land where I was raised, for one thing. You also see a tree which quietly grew from what my Mother describes as being a small sapling in the field when she and her siblings were young to a truly grand presence. She is one of nine children who played in the same field where I and my brother, sister and 27 cousins played. That elm tree, to my way of thinking, raised two generations of Reagan children. It was the silent sentinel of our childhood years, faithfully kept whispered secrets, harbored grandiose dreams, stood protectively, arms outstretched over afternoon naps, watched us grow into adolescence and witnessed the majority of us marry and have children of our own.

When I was wee, I used to go up to the hayloft of my Grandpa's barn to talk to God. I just knew God was there, up in the vast space of the hayloft where it was quiet and still, and smelled sweetly of fresh hay in summer months. Then I learned that snakes and other critters liked the hayloft. This helpful information convinced me to transplant my talking to God spot to the elm tree. It was huge, after all, limbs outstretched in a majestic umbrella, sheltering us in summer months to play, dream, climb way up high and practically touch the sky. It made perfect sense to me that God would love the elm tree as much as I did, and would visit with me there. Of course, God/Universe is anywhere you choose to look, and I can easily see that Presence in the sheer beauty of that old tree.

At one point in the mid-1970's, the elm tree was struck by lightning and split down the center. For a time, there was debate as to whether my Grandpa would cut the elm tree down. Of course, all of the children in the family pleaded for this not to happen, as it was our primary recreation spot and the best climbing tree on the property. After a time, the tree, amazingly, began to heal itself. I am of the opinion that this healing took place as much from fervent children's prayers, crossed fingers, sincere applications of Band-Aids and many loving tree hugs, as it did from Nature weaving the sections of the tree back together. The scar remained from the lightning strike, the tree took on the appearance of two separate trunks melded together at the base and continued to stand strong for over 30 more years. At its most healthy years, it required at least 4 adults, arms outstretched and linked hand-in-hand to circle the vast width of the tree trunk, it was that large.

I continued to visit the elm tree, even after I moved away from home, making it a point to walk out through the field and spend time there. I always thought that after all the children grew up that the elm tree had to be lonely for the sound of laughter, for the feeling of small feet climbing its limbs, for the exhuberant, loving embraces we all bestowed upon it. I never left Tennessee without stopping to visit the tree, and bestowing a hug, having a conversation with it and with God, before feeling all was truly right in my world.

A couple of years ago, we had an unusually rainy year following a long period of drought. There were many storms with high winds that swept across the side of the ridge where our property, and the elm tree, are located. I stopped by for a visit late one afternoon and asked my Mom to walk out to the field to see the elm tree. Reaching the edge of the field, we stopped dead in horror - half of the elm tree had fallen. Apparently the sheer weight of its large limbs had proven too heavy for the old lightning scar to bear and the lower section of the trunk split free and fell. The remaining section was still upright, but according to my Uncle who now owns the property, there are plans to cut it down and clear the property. I admit, without an ounce of embarrassment, that I stood there and cried. I walked up to the still standing section of my dear old friend and once again spread my arms out for a loving embrace.

Resting my cheek against the smooth bark, I closed my eyes and said a prayer. I cried some more, and cannot lie - my heart just ached as I leaned against this most faithful of childhood companions. The fanciful part of my heart wonders and thinks that perhaps the elm tree grew saddened and lonely for company over the years. With no children to play and climb all over it, no laughter to absorb, no wee arms embracing it with love, maybe the elm tree decided it was time to let go.

It is my dear hope that I will be able to find some skilled artisan who can take some of the fallen tree trunk and create a piece of furniture, or decorative art, so that I may always have a piece of my childhood protector with me. The other half of the tree still stands strong in the field, and I continue to visit and say Hello each time I go home. The time is drawing near when that field will be empty of the all encompassing, mighty presence of that massive elm tree, and that will be a sad day to witness.

For now, I have written a loving tribute to this old friend. I cannot stand silently and leave the world wiped clean of the existence of such a beautiful work of God and nature - I felt driven to capture the images here and write the words. We were raised well by that faithful presence, we Reagan children, and I daresay there is not a single one of us who will be left untouched by the passing of that sheltering, peaceful beauty. It is our Reagan Generation Tree. Thankfully, it has been captured in endless photographs. It is also safe in each of our memories. To the best of my calculations, it has lived close to 100 years. And now, you, my readers, can finally understand why my blog posts are hallmarked with the image of the bare branches of this graceful tree, silhouetted against the evening winter sky.

When you see that image, you see something so dear to my heart that I chose it to represent Healing Morning. The energy of that old elm tree has always brought me to a powerful place of healing, peace and welcome, and that is the energy I hope is conveyed with this blog. My blog design is due to change in the coming weeks, but you will always find the image of this elm tree somewhere in connection to my writing. It is as intrinsically a part of me as my writing and I like the continuity it represents.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more at Healing Morning blog.
~ Dawn