Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Trees (12/05/05)
- TITLE: The Climb
By Suzanne R
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The tree is simple to climb because of the many intertwining branches. The lower part is just a tangle of grey, tired old wood. One trunk forms the base but very low down, a second trunk emerges from the first, immediately melding with it again, leaving just a small air pocket to show its individuality. It would make a good foothold. The ‘two-become-one trunk’ then separates into many branches, which in turn intertwine in pairs and branch out again.
Two branches are different. One protrudes, beautiful, but alone. A nearby branch also catches my attention because of its deep scar. It seems somehow alienated from the others.
I have no choice. My heart pounds with a sense of urgency, as if this tree will soon be but a memory. Grabbing the scarred branch, I put my foot in the little air pocket and hoist myself up.
After climbing for only a short time, I see something that doesn’t make sense. Almost all the branches come to a dead end. Only a few intertwined pairs go up again. Most of the branches are stark, empty, lifeless, like a dead tree after the flood waters have subsided.
Higher and higher I climb. The colours and textures of the bark become varied. Pasty white, jet black, all shades in between, smooth and gentle, gnarled, knotted, hard – this tree produces them all.
One single non-intertwined branch draws me as I climb. The branch, like that of an olive tree, has been mutilated. Strangely, the sight makes my chest tighten and tears spring to my eyes.
Higher, higher, higher…. Eventually I reach the leafy parts of the tree, where birds twitter and bees hum.
I’m drawn to a section of strong knobbly branches. Jagged oak leaves are dominant here. Acorns hang from the branches, just like a picture from the English story books on which I grew up. I’m comfortable here, but it isn’t quite where I belong.
The branch I’m following intertwines with one like an Australian gum. Strong, resilient, with smooth dull green leaves, the two blend together and branch into three … and here I find my niche. One branch is yet unentwined, white, thick, twisting and turning, and covered with peach blossoms and gum nuts! What a strange mixture. And why do I feel such a sense of affinity with it? It’s only a branch.
From my vantage point I gaze at the treetop. Some branches are definitely prettier than others. Some produce more flowers, fruit and nuts than others. Some are obviously more weathered than others. Are the branches and leaves of ‘my’ cluster inherently better or worse than any others? Don’t they all draw from the same life source, nourished by the life giving sap that flows through the tree?
I curl up on ‘my’ branch, and suddenly realize that this branch IS me. I can almost see my siblings near me. Two new young branches, sweet and fresh, warm my heart. Looking down, I see our parents, their branches dripping with acorns and gum nuts. Below them, the faded faces of our grandparents, all now with the Lord, are just visible in the white bark. They, too, are an integral part of who I am.
Suddenly, birds rise from the tree with loud warning screeches. I look out and see a wall of flame roaring across the grassland.
Who will I be after the fire has exercised its destructive power? Will my family still be my family?
There’s no time to wonder … with an almighty ‘whoosh’ it’s all over.
To my delight, I find myself standing with a crowd of people, of all colours and backgrounds, gazing in wonder at the brilliant Life Source. The tree is gone. We newcomers gape in amazement, while the ‘old-timers’ like my grandparents smile with pleasure. Instinctively, I know that those I had considered ‘family’ are no more or less ‘family’ than anybody else. Some former family members are conspicuous by their absence.
There is no more intertwining of branches. Only one marriage remains. It is that of the church and the Son of Man, the One represented by the mutilated olive branch partway up that old tree.
The family tree is no more.
Family remains, however, in its purest form. Our Lord takes us, the church, to be His bride.
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