When our family moved from a wooded rural area in Missouri to southeastern Kansas, my parents built a house on a double lot that had no trees. My mother planted everything herself. Three gardens, two of them raised above ground; grape vines, flowering bushes, spring bulbs and perennials that blossomed until autumn flowers took over; a long border of regular, lemon and chocolate mint plants, and a total of twenty-seven trees. Four were fruit trees, and the rest were an amazing assortment of pines, blue spruce, maples, ash, oak, and elm trees. They provided shade and beauty, plus a sense of deep roots around the house my parents made their home for more than fifty years, until Alzheimer’s and dementia forced them to move.
Kahlil Gibran wrote, “Trees are the poems that the earth writes upon the sky.” The trees around our house were also my mother’s lasting signature on a barren piece of land.
I inherited my mother’s love of planting trees, signing my signature on Colorado soil that has a much shorter growing season. After Molly was born, one of her special birthday gifts each year was an aspen tree, rose bush or evergreen planted in the yard. Then when she became a wife and mother, a tornado ripped through their Kansas town. Insurance rebuilt and repaired their home, but did not replace the trees that had been destroyed, so our special gift to them was six red maple trees. Our family has a long tradition of investing in trees, and it began with my mother.
The stories she told us at home and shared with the children in the church nursery were often about trees, about planting and caring for them, appreciating their shade, thanking them for the branches that held nests for birds. And her lessons of trees always wove their way back to lessons about life. My mother chose her words as carefully as she chose what she planted in her yard. She knew she was investing in long term growth.
61 responses to “POEMS WRITTEN UPON THE SKY”
The picture of Grace and Maggie reading in the shade is so precious! You, your mother and I share a grand love of trees. Trees, at least in my world, are people too, to be nurtured and respected as fellow inhabitants. Well, wiser inhabitants of our world.
I remember how upset you and I both were, Julia, when I posted about a tribe that walked by certain trees and continually shouted at them until the trees died and could be felled. Yep, trees are some of my favorite ‘people’ and it’s a loss when one dies and has to be cut down.
I talk to my trees all the time. The redwoods, in particular, get a – “Hey guys, how ya doin’?”
That’s “good” talking, and I grew up talking to trees, plants, and even the beets and carrots I planted in my own garden. In grade school when we did an experiment–talking mean to some plants, and nice to others, to see if it had any effect–my friends and I would sneak in after recess and talk extra nice to the ones who were supposed to hear mean words. Yep, Julia, trees and plants are very real to me, too.
I’m delighted you’ve inherited not just your mothers love for planting but her gift for telling stories.I’m sure your children and grandchildren willtake to planting trees and passing th same messages down to fiture generations that trees are an investment in our future.
xxx Massive Hugs Marylin xxx
Thank you, David. I hope so, too. After the tornado, when so much of the town was destroyed or severely damaged and their family lost all the big, wonderful trees around their house, I think that was a hard reality for our grandchildren and our daughter and son-in-law. Now that their house has been completely redone, the red maples are growing. It’s a slow growth, but it’s still a very hopeful sign. I always appreciate your comments and your massive hugs, David!
Your mother was a master at nurturing not only trees and gardens but her family as well. You are truly rich from her loving investment.
We are, Lea. And even though the dementia keeps her from remembering all she has done for her family and so many others, we remember it. She ‘planted’ so many wonderful things in our hearts, minds, and lives.
Such an inspiring post Marylin. Love that your parents put down their family roots and lived in the home they created for fifty years. Wonderful!
Actually, Jenny, it was almost 53, even though the last 18 mos with Dad’s Alzheimer’s were difficult. When we knew they’d not be able to return home and I had to sort through all those years of living, accumulating and storage, it was such a lesson. I found art we’d made for them when we were children, and keepsakes made for them by their grandchildren, and all kinds of clothing and handmade pillow cases, etc. that they’d kept for sentimental reasons. It was a touching, wonderful journey for me.
The first thought that popped into my head reading this was Adam and Eve taking care of the Garden of Eden. According to the story, the plants and trees were already there, but they had to “dress” them and harvest their bounty as your family did.
It also brings to mind the sapllng oak my Aunt Ruthie planted in memory of her mother, my Grandma Longenecker. The tree planting was an auspicious occasion, her grand-nieces and nephews circling the tree, and with their small hands filling in the dirt. Our family also had a red maple tree – loved the unique leaf shape and the twisting trunk we climbed as kids.
Our present home is encircled with 18 tall live oaks trees. We love the beautiful shade they provide, but the millions of leaves that are shed from February – May are getting to be too much for us. It’s almost like living in a forest. After more than 35 years here, we’ll have to find a house with less yard work. ;-(
Adorable kid photos, Marylin.
Oh, Marian, the image of the grand-nieces and nephew circling the tree, and their small hands filling in the dirt around the dedication tree is very sweet and touching. Those are the traditions and celebrations that remind us of what we came from, the love and sense of family, and the trees that will shade future generations. Beautiful!
Lovely remembering – and quote from Kahlil Gibran. We have moved a lot during our marriage, and everywhere we have been we have planted trees
What a wonderful “parting gift” for the next family, Maureen. And it leaves something of yourselves there, as you take the memories with you.
Oh, this is such a lovely post. Trees are a kind of friend, I think!
I agree, Jane. And on hot summer days when a shade tree can lower the temperature by 10-15 degrees, there’s no friend I’d rather spend time with as I was growing up. I could lean against the tree trunk and read aloud from whatever book I was reading. 🙂
I really appreciate trees too. I do not want to live in a forest but I love trees in a yard. That yard was a lot of work for your mom but I can only imagine the supreme joy she got from it! Have a good weekend and do some sitting under a tree yourself if weather permits!
It’s been too rainy to sit under a tree lately, Claudia, but I’m sure we’ll be wishing for rain by the middle of July.
Yes, Mom did enjoy the planning, the digging and planting. She’d get up early in the mornings before the summer sun got too hot, and it seemed to center her for the day.
Hi Marylin, what a beautiful post. I am definitely a tree hugger/lover. We planted pine trees that were Christmas trees a few years in a row when our children were born. I wish we would have given alittle more thought to their placement; they grew very large and we planted them a little too close to our home! But they are beautiful and a reminder of how fast the time goes when raising children.
Thank you for a lovely reminder of how special trees really are.
😉 Christmas pine trees planted too close to each other and to your house; now that’s a true example of the things we do as parents that just don’t turn out perfectly…but are even more wonderful because they make us laugh and remember those days. You’re my kind of person, Joanne.
Love that Gibran reference. And that last photo is wonderful. The dog seems to be thoroughly enjoying the arrangement. 🙂
Grace asked if the first picture of her with Maggie actually happened… because she didn’t remember it. 🙂 That’s why we take so many pictures of babies, to have proof to remind them. But she loves to read to Maggie even now, Carrie, which makes it fun for all of us.
I’m sitting outside my cabin reading your sweet post and looking at all the huge trees around me. Like your mother you are enriching the landscape and the soul and hearts of your children and grandchildren . Did you ever read the children’s book ‘The Giving Tree’ bei Silverstein ?
Have a wonderful weekend
Thank you, Gerlinde. I appreciate that.
THE GIVING TREE makes me sad when I read it; there’s only so much giving mothers can do before they lose themselves. But the image of a nurturing, sheltering tree–for birds and humans and everyone in need of shade and encouragement–is the tree image that means the most to me.
We lived on the flat, dry, Alberta prairies and there were very few trees. My Dad found a sapling growing in a ditch and sent a letter to the local authorities requesting it not be harmed while the municipality mowed the grass in the summer. He was not very popular as it was very inconvenient to go around the small tree. I love how your mother devoted so much time and energy into making sure there were trees and greenery around.
Bravo for your dad, Darlene! Did the tree survive and thrive?
We found two tossed-away trees on the side of the road where the road crew had done work. We took them home and planted them near each other in the back part of the yard. They were straggly at first, but they came out of it. When we sold the house, the new owners–who had no understanding or attachment–removed a lot of Mom’s plants and trees, including these two.
I´m not sure. That was a long time ago. But we did plant a tree in Dad´s name at the local museum which is growing very well. I have nominated you for the 5 day challenge if you wish to participate. ❤ https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/2015/06/18/final-day-of-the-5-day-challenge/
Wonderful post, Marylin. It doesn’t surprise me that your mother had such a love for trees.When I was young, one of my favorite things to do was sit under a tree and read.
I was the same way, Jill. And sometimes I would even read aloud to the tree. It was just so calm and comfortable sitting there, and it was one of the few places I could read out loud as I read.
For the first time in my life I have my own trees and they bring something special into our lives. The garden changes as the trees change. I walk through them each day and touch them. Your mother was a very forward looking lady to understand the importance of trees. And all children should learn to appreciate their qualities. Lovely photos.
One of the things I enjoy most about your recent blogs, Andrew, is the way you describe your new landscape since your move. The things you notice, like the garden changing as the trees change, and how you walk through the trees and touch them. You and my mother have the same deep appreciation for trees.
Great blog, Marylin. Your mom is so right about her appreciation of trees, all kinds of trees. My favorite experience with trees has to be the many times you and I have marveled at those hundred year-old cottonwoods as we walk in Brown’s Park in Abilene. So many, so close together, such towering giants–strong and sturdy. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to soar or flutter here and there like the birds that play so high up amidst those upper-most limbs. What a legacy our ancestors planted for us so many, many years ago.
I wish my mom could see those Brown’s Park trees now, honey. Especially the one with branches sweeping over the road like a scene from Gone With The Wind. She would love it, or would have before the dementia. But even now, when I read poems to her about trees, she smiles and nods.
Trees! When I was young my father would find saplings growing along the road, at my great-grandfather’s farm, or just where ever, and he’d bring them home and plant them in our yard. He nurtured those trees as though they were his children. We watched them grow and produce and our yard became a magical place of growth, beauty, and fun. After all, trees are for climbing too! So many fun, beautiful memories of sitting under those trees eating watermelon, coloring, playing in imaginary worlds, etc, etc, etc. Thank you for a sweet reminder of the past in relation to the gifts of God and earth. Have a wonderful week, Marylin! XO
Thank you for sharing the stories about the trees your father rescued and nurtured into shady, climb-able memories of your life, Robyn. A wonderful week to you, too! Hugs!
Less is more , so all I will say is thank you for this.
Thank you, Calvin. And I thank you for your comment! 🙂
How lovely that you have a long tradition of planting trees. One of things I remember most about my childhood home was the trees. In my mind I can still walk that garden and name of all the trees.
When we ran out of space for more trees, Gallivanta, we switched to planting a rose bush each year. The first year we made the change, our daughter chose a “Queen Elizabeth” rose to match her middle name, Elizabeth. This year, for Jim’s and my anniversary, we planted a blueberry bush, and it’s so much fun to watch the berries come on.
Planting trees or bushes in one of our favorite ways to celebrate.
It really is a wonderful way to celebrate. 🙂
Marylin, you wrote a touching, heartful post about your mom. Your wall-art reminds me of the “tree of life”. And I love the precious photos of Grace and Maggie. 🙂
They’re really growing up, Tracy. They’ve grown so fast are are doing so many things, but they still remember being your blog’s “guest artists” with their Picasso paintings. That was special for them.
Thanks for sharing with me, Marylin. You’ve made my day. If Grace and Gannon would like to showcase more of their art, I’d love to do a blog post about them again. 🙂
They follow their mom’s lead and now help her with her creative chairs she paints, Tracy. Last year they helped Molly paint the retro patio chairs with Picasso-style faces and Picasso quotes on the seats. This week they helped her do two more chairs for our anniversary. Very different and very funny and fun. I’ll post pictures in the blog at the end of this week.
What a lovely tribute — to your mother, to trees, to gardening, to life!
I’ve been thinking about what blogs are about/for, and I think one of the best things they are, is, a record of our lives/stories. And yours is a treasure–inspirational and a pleasure to read.
I always love visiting your “place.” ❤
Oh, thank you, Tracy. This blog is a record of my mother’s life before the dementia, and our lives, too, as she’s influenced us. When the time comes, we’ll have all the blogs, pictures and comments printed out in collectable book form for her great-grandchildren.
I always love having you visit our “place”!
That’s such a great idea!
I haven’t forgotten your suggestion for selecting a dozen or so of the best posts and putting them together in a small book, Tracy. Thank you for the encouragement.
I wish my parents had stayed at their simple brick ranch house they built in Sandusky. I had the best friends growing up next door! (Three sisters, Amy, Beth and Ellen. I have caught up with them two or three times, but never like neighbors and lifelong friends.)
I am so glad you were raised here in the beautiful home, with such lovely collection of trees. Your mother was so wise to have this wide selection with all kinds to enjoy their colors during fall, their blossoms during Spring and lovely shade in the summertime. I also noticed no nut trees. This is a great reminder of her thinking things through, Marylin! I always was in charge of picking up walnuts, buckeyes and other things which would ‘catch’ in the lawnmower.
We did move to two more houses while going through school and our last one had great big trees, which was nice not to have to start ‘from scratch!’ like the first and second homes.
Kahlil Gibran talks about trees and marriage which I read at my youngest brother’s wedding, that love would be like two cypress trees standing next to each other, never bending or being in each other’s shadow. I love the quote for this post, which is applicable to your art piece, too. It was a beautiful story and post, Marylin.
Thanks, Robin. Although my mom never planted any nut trees, she did know of a pecan orchid about 30 miles away, and she and I went there to pick pecans. We sometimes went with another mother and her children and took a picnic lunch, and gathering fallen pecans was easy but very dirty work that stained our fingers and hands.
At the end of the day, the pecans were free if you gave the orchard owner half, which we did, and still we took home almost a bushel. For months we broke the shells and picked out the pecan meat. Mom would freeze many bags of pecan halves and pieces for our baking. She also had great recipes for making candied or spicy pecans and filled little bags with them, tied them with red and green ribbons, and gave them as little Christmas gifts. Part of my love of pecans comes from the memories. 🙂
Very evocative post, Marylin. The old farmhouse where I grew up in Pennsylvania had four amazing trees. Two sturdy oaks in the front yard with their cascading acorns in the fall, and two even larger sycamores in the front, their peeling bark littering the yard but their shade keeping us cool without the aid of air conditioning. Those trees still stand. I love to go back to the house, now a bed and breakfast and stand under those trees again.
Your comment reminds me of the flipside, Shirley, when two of the huge pines my mom had planted had to be taken out because of disease and damage. I hope you can go often to visit the sycamores that still shade the house you grew up in; it sounds like a beautiful accent for a bed and breakfast.
The photo of Grace reading to Maggie is precious. It seems like the dog is soaking in every word. And the gift of a tree is also very precious.
Thanks for the memories of shadier lots. There are few things in nature that are more appealing than a beautiful shade tree. Growing up, we had elm, maple and birch trees. The latter provided little shade but were very beautiful. Weeping willows were wonderful (notice the alliteration). Just make sure they weren’t near any water pipes. Their roots seemed to gravitate toward the water. 😉
Looks like they enjoy it so much ….adorable !
They really do. Thanks, Jake.
Oh I love this post Marylin. Mum and Dad went to visit beloved friends who bought a plot of land on a Scottish island. They came back saying how lovely (and remote) it was, but they personally could not live there. I asked why and Dad simply said ‘There are no trees…’. I am currently pursuing a new workshop to rent and the view from the windows is of the tall, majestic trees along the riverbank…did I instantly fall in love with this workspace, oh so yes! Am I pursuing it with all my heart…of so yes! I love what your Mum and Dad built,…the lives for their family that they crafted and the love that still stands to this day…marvelous. ❤ and hugs for you all, especially your special Mum and Dad….as his spirit so lives on through you and yours…. ❤ Xx
When my parents built their house, there weren’t any trees around. My mom began planting all kinds of trees, one at a time, by herself. In between trees, she planted vegetable gardens, herb beds, gooseberry bushes, bulbs, flowering bushes, you name it. She changed the flat, barren yard into a haven, Jane, and it nourished us all. Many hugs to you!
What a beautiful family tradition and legacy. I adore trees too. I can just imagine all those years of your mother planting her gardens and trees and how beautiful your family home must have looked as the years went by. What fruit came from her sheer hard work! And what a precious gift to plant a tree every year of your daughter’s birthday, I love that 🙂
When my grandmother died at 94, her wish was to be cremated and we scattered her ashes in a nearby bluebell wood owned by The Woodland Trust. Instead of flowers, we all chipped in to buy three trees donated in her name, planted in the same wood, as was her wish. Now, everytime I walk through those woods, I think of my dear Granny’s love of nature and of life living on not only in her family but in the trees planted in her name. Thank you again Marylin for another heartwarming post as you share more of your early family life. Your family roots run so deep in all the right ways 🙂
Today it’s cool and raining–not typical summer Colorado–and the trees are swaying with happiness. One of my favorite characters growing up, Sherri, was Johnny Appleseed!
Oh how wonderful! We’ve had rain here too, it’s wonderful in the summer, and keeps the gardens lush and green 🙂 I love Johnny Appleseed! In fact, I seem to remember your post about him? I learnt about him through my kids at school in California 🙂 One of my favourite ‘Americana’ stories!
Hi I just stumbled across your blog, but had to say I am touched by the sentiment of it. What a beautiful way to express your thoughts. Thanks for sharing.