What's Tony Thinking

I Would Plant a Tree


In the lecture I gave last Saturday, I cited Martin Luther and John Kennedy as examples of an “Advent ethic.” Each when asked what they would do today if they knew that tomorrow was the end said, “I would plant a tree.”

Perhaps they were whistling in the dark. Or┬ámaybe they were confessing their faith that history shall not end in meaninglessness and futility, but in Christ’s reign of healing and the reconciliation of all things, including the creation. For which trees will certainly be necessary!

We are back in the Wallowas in far northeastern Oregon, one more week in the woods before winter. The new snow on the mountains says that winter isn’t that far off.

And for us, this was a year of tree planting. Nine new trees. Four aspens, two tamaracks a.k.a. larch, one Rocky Mountain maple, a Douglas Fir rescue, and one blue spruce. The latter chosen by our five-year-old granddaughter, Lila, when she had her “girls weekend,” with Linda. (I was backpacking.)

2020 has been a weary and wary year — with more to come. But trees are planted. Gesturing, we hope, toward a healing and wholeness that is promised by a God who gets the last word.

In 2019 we planted a maple in memory of our dear friend, Bob Almquist, who had been murdered in March of that year. That tree is doing very well, the leaves now golden. I can’t imagine a better memorial for anyone, really, than a tree.

Our nine-year-old grandson, Colin, is here with us. School on-line. But a short day today (Wednesday), so he and I headed to the hardware store for a new supply of mouse traps. The little buggers come inside this time of year. Then Colin got up on the roof of the garage to broom away accumulated debris. While he swept, I was chopping wood down below. He called out, “Save some wood for me to chop.”

And he did (see photo). It was a first, and he proved good at it.

As some of you know, I quite enjoy chopping wood (as also did Bob Almquist). So as Colin heaved-to, did well and showed promise for a good future as a wood chopper, it occurred to me, “I am being replaced.” But hard on the heels of that pathetic lament came a different thought, “No, I am being followed.”

Colin has seen me chop lots of wood. And now he wants to, and is doing, the same.

That’s a grace note. From sad “I’m being replaced,” to glad “I’m being followed, a tradition carried on.”

Our cabin was built by my grandparents in 1926. One of the joys, and comforts, of such a place is the succession of generations in the same place.*

The succession of trees. We plant, and in due time some one will follow us, to harvest.

*I must acknowledge that the coming of white settlers here in the mid-19th century meant that for the Nez Perce, their own succession of generations on this land, did not continue. In time, the same may be true for us.


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