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.