In the neighborhood of the city of New Orleans where I was raised, there were three trees visible from my house. One was a fig tree that grew in a neighbor’s yard behind our shed. My sisters and I did not care for figs, but Mama did, so every summer when they came to fruition, we would climb on the shed and gather those from branches we could reach. Another nearby tree was a venerable cedar tree in the garden of the next-door neighbor’s house. She had it cut down when its roots started to interfere with the plumbing under her raised shotgun house. The tree closest in proximity to our house was an American elm that Mama planted in front of our porch between the sidewalk and the street. It provided the only shade on the block, so in a neighborhood with no off-street parking and no garages, everyone vied to park her car under it. A shaded car is worth more than the inconvenience of walking a distance to one’s house in the summer in New Orleans.

I always felt like a country girl trapped in the city, and the dearth of trees in our neighborhood only served to accentuate how misplaced I felt by fate. There was something about trees that made me feel at home when near them. They had a lot to teach me, and I have listened to their message over the years. I hope that the most precious gift of my life–my granddaughter–can learn to hear them, too.

  1. Trees sprout where the seed falls, and they grow there, in that place, where they happened to land. They don’t move to bigger forests, or places with a better view, or wander the globe in search of greener pastures. They flourish in their space. Be content to be where you are, Granddaughter.
  2. Trees always grow, yet they are in no rush to do so. One ring of growth per year, that’s what trees produce. They are not rushed to mature, leave their home, move on to that other life. They are content to grow at the rate that nature intended for them. Take your time to become who you already are, Granddaughter.
  3. Trees continue to grow. They grow more in years of plenty, less in years of drought. A thick ring shows that a tree had a growth spurt. A narrow ring reflects bounty withheld by nature. In either case, trees grow. Never stop growing and learning, Granddaughter, not even when times are narrow.
  4. Every year, trees shed their foliage–even evergreens–and take a break from everything in order to lie dormant for a spell, to be still. Then, just like that, they begin again, fresh and ready to face a new year. They don’t hang on to last year’s baggage. They don’t regret their loss or inevitable change. They don’t fear what the future will bring. They just continue on with today. Live for today, Granddaughter–fully and without regret or fear.
  5. Trees are quiet. They allow birds to nest in them without complaint. Sometimes they are chopped down by humans for whatever reason our ilk deems fit. They don’t shout and get angry when another tree sprouts near them. They stand there, quietly, for their entire life. Be quiet and still, at least occasionally, Granddaughter–of body, mind, and spirit.

Now I live in the country, surrounded by the Creator’s most opulent gift–trees. Though I haven’t learned all of their lessons, I am thankful to be here and open to their wisdom. I am thankful to share my life (and all these trees) with a little girl, too.

How about you, Gentle Reader? Have the trees taught you anything that you would like to share here?