“A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.”

— Elton Trueblood

My love affair with trees is fairly well-known.  The ones I see on my morning walks are like old friends — faithful, true, well-grounded, and beautiful in the imperfections life has bestowed upon them.  The ones I love best are the ones that have stood for decades, planted by unknown hands or left in place by the men who first cleared the land to build their homes.  I love to watch the buds burst open in Spring, when the very first leaves of the season are a delicate green that never is duplicated during any other time of the year.  I love to sit in their shade on hot summer days and enjoy the shelter of their abundant leaves.  I love to watch as they take on the colors of Autumn and invite us to look just one more time at the splendor and the wonder of all that is a tree; but I think I love the trees best when the last leaves have fallen and they stand crooked and bare against the cold winter sky.

It is then that we can see the crooked structure that usually is hidden by foliage.  It is then that we learn that surface beauty is only an expression of something more profound and deep — of strength and endurance and sometimes a scar or two that rarely are apparent to the naked eye.  It is then that we can connect with the fact that our present comfort and enjoyment is built on years and years of living and loving and hoping for the future.  As the last month of 2012 winds down and I consider the travels I have made with my companion word, “legacy,” I am thankful for the trees.  There is no better visual for “legacy” than a gnarled old tree, planted by unknown hands, tested by time and weather, and still standing strong and true as another winter approaches.

I would like to plant some trees that will bring shelter to my great-great-grandchildren one day.  Perhaps some of them will actually be oaks or maples.  Perhaps some with be other sorts of legacies that I drop like seeds along my path and hope will be discovered in some distant time when I am not here to tell their story myself.

Let us be about planting.  Let us think about the seeds we would like to sow and not worry about who might reap the harvest.  The trees have taught us well.  They grow whether the planter is present or not.  They stand tall and show us what it means to be true to ourselves, whatever the season; and they remind us that there is no shame in bearing a scar or two.  I would like my descendants to know these truths.  They are my legacy,