Saturday, January 28, 2006

Tree of Life

I love sycamore trees.

I don't remember seeing a sycamore as a child. I don't know if there were any in my small Michigan hometown. I heard about a sycamore tree in Sunday School. There was a story of a short man, a tax collector, who climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus, for he couldn't see him over the crowd. Jesus went to him, looked up and talked to him, inviting him to a meal at the house where he was staying and thereby blessing him for his perseverance and curiosity. But I didn't see details of the tree in my imagination, just the man.

I didn't know what a sycamore looked like. Besides, I've since learned that the sycamore-fig in the Luke story is not the same tree as the North American plane tree or the European sycamore. It is an evergreen that bears fruit, important to Middle Eastern life in biblical times, as much so as olive trees.

I first was conscious of a European sycamore in Paris with my sister Nan in 1997. I don't know when I first knew they were sycamores, those trees that line the Seine between the Pont Neuf and the Pont de la Concorde. Maybe I read about them in a travel book.

Our first day in the city it rained, and we walked along the Quai du Louvre under umbrellas, under the sycamore trees.

The mottled patches of the trunks were more vivid in the rain, and I took my sister's photograph leaning against one of them. She wore black agsint the tree's giraffed skin in shades of apple green, cinnamon, taupe and charcoal.

There is a sycamore near the building where I work on the park-like campus of MSU. In winter especially, it looks like a ghost tree amid the oaks, beeches and maples whose bark spans a spectrum of black to grey and brown.

I think now that the sycamore is my glimpse of God, of mystery. It is pale and unearthly at times, its almost white branches hard to see against winter's snow. As for Zaccheus, the tree provides me a view of the divine.


Ruth said...

I find it interesting to see how you connect with God through nature. It helps me see that there are many ways that God can be found.

i found this web site that has info on the sycamore fig:

It contains tons of info on the tree and its traditional uses. Here is a useful one that everyone should try:

Sap of Sycamore extracted in spring
Fly dung

Who tried that one out first?

Keep blogging!

Ginnie said...

I absolutely love how you've tied this all together,Ruth. Well done! And I love Don's remark about how you often connect to God through nature. I do, too, but don't always expand on it as you have here. Thank you.

lesleyanne said...

i looove that last image. the gnarly branches against the blue sky. so beautiful.

Meredith said...

Beautiful post, Ruth.

Glad to find you,

PS You might enjoy this post:

Ruth said...

Meredith: Thank you so much, what a beautiful site! Thank you for stopping by.

Lorenzo said...

Pray tell, what if anything, does this have to do with MSU basketball? ;D

Yes, I have decided to start 'stalking' through your past posts, to know more of your personal mythology. Today, I have made my way up from the first to sycamore tree day...