My dearest readers and very especially my new and longtime loyal subscribers, tomorrow is Halloween! I love Halloween, don’t you? And in celebration I am sharing the story from my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden that speaks of one of my favorite Octobers, in North Carolina, on the occasion of Antonia’s one visit to Appalachia. I have shared this story once before, titled “Invest in Trees” a few years ago, and it is nudging me to be told again. I do hope you love and enjoy!
Happy Halloween, dear ones!
Love and fall blessings!
About the Pumkin Tree
My daughter was making her first journey to Appalachia! And
knowing we would not see each other that Christmas I leapt at the
chance to create a holiday with her in October. Fortunately Halloween
is one of my favorite holidays of the year, upon which I could readily
build, with vast support from the magnificent changing of leaves in a
North Carolina fall.
I called a tree farm outside Asheville inquiring if he had “anything that
looked like a Christmas tree”. Puzzled, he asked why. “Do you really want
to know?” I responded, grinning into the phone. He did. I explained that
my daughter was coming, that it was her first trip to North Carolina,
that I did not anticipate seeing her that Christmas, and that I wanted to
make us a pumpkin tree. This man knew how to hear a mother’s heart.
Clearly touched, he invited me to come out, even though it was a wholesale
business, and he would “find me something”. I drove myself out into the
country with my dog, and eventually spotted the long red gate he had given
me as a landmark. I pulled through the gate and found myself entering a
magical environment of all manner of trees in pots. I had never been to
such a tree farm before, and I was instantly enchanted. When I exited
from the car a warm young man came out to greet me, anticipating who
I was. He indicated I should follow him and I followed his lead through
pots and pots of trees, about which I could scarcely contain my curiosity,
until we stopped before what appeared to be some kind of small and
noble cedar. I felt strangely comfortable with its green upward spiraling
flat branches. It was a narrow tree, about five and a half feet high, and he
called it an arborvitae. “Tree of life,” I smiled excitedly. “I’ll take it!” When
I arrived home I wetted it down, then brought it inside (promising the
tree it was only for a few days) and began the joyful task of wrapping
smiling round pumpkin lights about its limbs, then topping it off with
a long strand of shiny red and gold tiny autumn leaves. I plugged in the
pumpkin lights and stood back to admire my creation: A Pumpkin Tree!
I grinned with glee and anticipation of my surprise. A couple of welcoming
gifts wrapped in orange and gold papers with Halloween stickers
strategically placed about the packages finished off the project. When
Antonia arrived, tired from the long journey, the tree stood in a living
room corner in shining festive welcome and as she spotted it, her weary
face broke into a broad grin. I was so tickled, so pleased.
So now I own two trees. My ginkgo and a Western Red Cedar, as
it turns out, which, curiously, really belongs in the Pacific Northwest.
Nomadic as I am known to be, I am the owner and caregiver of two
trees, who will now make their way with me in my travels. Somehow
they give me great comfort. I fantasize, and have spoken with family
members about placing these trees in our family cemetery plot. Here
lie my greatgrandmother and greatgrandfather and grandmother and
greataunt, and a bevy of cousins are buried nearby, throughout the small
town cemetery. The plot was purchased over one hundred years ago for
us by my greatgrandfather, a true investment in a longterm proposition,
which is, in fact, what a tree is about. One day perhaps I will be buried
there and my body, first purified in the grace of fire, will become part of
these trees I nurture, who in return nurture me.
The trees in my life are not all physical and recognizable trees.
There are the traditions, maintained devotedly year to year, creating
the substance of family memories on which we hang our lives. Chai on
Christmas morning. Gingerbread and popovers and the familiar ornaments
that carry their special memories year after faithful year. Graves
tended. Birthdays honored. Scrapbooks and photo books marking the
passages of life. A wedding veil passed from grandmother to daughter
to sister to grandchild. Stories long told from generation to generation,
each word repeated faithfully as it was first heard by a grandchild or
greatgrandchild. Such is the stuff of families, the roots of which go long
and deep before us.
Who and what are the proverbial trees in your life to which you make
the faithful annual pilgrimages? What does the honoring of these longheld
traditions give in return? How does change or turning away from them
affect your heart and soul? How can they be maintained, tended, and
cared for in a world that will not stand by waiting for us, but catapults
us further into a future we cannot predict, that we cannot count on to
stay the same? What will you take in your hand, your heart, your being
to sustain you on this ever-changing road, the trees of your life that lend
substance, courage, strength, rootedness, and meaning?