Mourning the Trees
By Joanne Condit of Phoenix, AZ, USA
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” —Psalm 46:1–3, 10 NRSV, adapted
During the summer we spend time in the mountainous town of Pine. The setting is magnificent; the home sits high on a hill overlooking a vast reservoir as blue as Idaho’s camas lilies. Tall pines spike the hillsides, and aspens flow like green streams down the folds of narrow valleys. Three large, snow-capped mountains catch the eye when looking eastward.
Two years ago a summer storm moved violently across that wonderful high land, its progress marked by constant lightning strikes. The resulting fire moved fast before the wind, fueled at first by the long, native grass, and then feasting on the pitch-rich pines. Our cousins got out of their cabin at a moment’s notice, escaping down a rough, unused logging track to the lakeside road far below. The fire came within 30 feet of their beautiful log home. They lost all the pine trees on the property, and the aspens burned as well. They gave thanks, of course, that the fire spared their home, but they also mourned the trees.
We went to Pine again last year, almost dreading the sight of the ravished landscape. We prepared to help our cousins with an enormous planting project—hundreds of pines, wild roses, and other native Idaho shrubs. We found, to our surprise, that they had already completed the project. Their flower beds were lush with blooms, and they had made repairs to places scorched by the fire. The charred pines had been logged, and sapling pines were already thriving. The shrubs flourished and the wild roses lent scent and color where there once was ash and devastation.
Our cousins, Tom and Karen, are not young. This was a sad loss to them for they built and improved that large piece of land over many years. It would have been easy to sell and move. They did not. They planted. They will not live long enough to see tall pines again adorning their mountain. The aspens will regenerate from the root formation, but will not achieve full and luxuriant growth for many years. Nevertheless, they have planted for the future, for other families from other places who will come to find peace and joy and beauty.
Our own sturdy faith can also be shaken, scarred, and even weakened by outside forces we cannot control. As people who declare Christ, however, we replant, water, and nurture our own faith not only for our sake, but for those who come after us—our children, grandchildren, and their children and grandchildren. We nurture our faith to lend hope and beauty and blessing to those we know and those we may never know. We plant and God provides the increase.
Prayer for Peace
Master Gardener, how many trees you must have seen through the ages burn and then rise from the ashes. How many children you must have known to rise from their souls’ darkest night. The trees grow because of you. The soul survives because of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The Earth will thrive when we share his peace.
Spiritual Practice: Trees
Watch the trees outside your window for a few moments. Close your eyes and meditate on Alma’s words about seeds and trees. If you were to plant and grow the Word of God in your heart, what tree might symbolically represent this process? Imagine a seed as it grows into a tree of life and blessing. Ask God to show you how to begin (see Alma 16:152–173).
Today, God, I will plant peace and nurture a future of wholeness for the children.