Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Giving Tree

While visiting my childhood home in Michigan, I went outside one afternoon and saw that the sun and the birch tree were working together on this masterpiece of shadow art.

I don't remember ever seeing this while I was living at home with my parents.  But I'm sure that it happened every sunny afternoon in the month of June.  Back then the shadow would not have been so large. This birch has grown since I left home to embark on my adult life.  

An art teacher once taught me to notice shape, lines, light and color.  I wonder how I ever saw anything before her guidance.  Perhaps I was too busy reading books to notice the natural world. 

This picture reminds me of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  Perhaps you've read it.  Silverstein has a dark side and way of making readers either laugh hysterically or cry themselves to sleep at night.  The Giving Tree is the kind that makes you bawl.  I read it to Elliot once and he doesn't want me to read it ever again.

When I look at the shadow of this tree in my old back yard, I'm happy because it's still standing tall, complete with branches and leaves.   

I'm taking it as a sign that I am not like the boy in the story who seldom comes home, only to take what he needs and leave again.                

If the giving tree in the story is a metaphor for a mother, in which the tree is "happy" to give everything she has only to end her life as a stump that the old boy rests on....

 I wonder if my mother has ever felt that way.  Because I live so far and have not visited as often as I'd like.

Then I  wonder if I am like the giving tree.  Happy to give my apples, my branches, my trunk...

If only the boy would come back.      

You see, the tree gives everything.  Everything.  And she's happy.  If we believe the words written on the page.  Yet while we read it, we are thinking "happy!???"  That's not HAPPY!  That's miserably sad!  The boy is a completely selfish taker!  

Yet perhaps the giving tree is actually a metaphor for mother earth, and we are the boy.  

Which still makes this story a tragedy...no matter that the last line is "and the tree was happy."

So this picture has me thinking about sacrifice, and how to be giving while not seeking martyrdom.  To release my leaves before winter so that my trunk and branches will not die of thirst when there is no rain.

It has me thinking that I need to stop this clenching reflex, this need to hold...everything in place.  To release and let things flow through.  

And also to call my mother today.

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