Trees With God In Them

January 6, 2012 § 7 Comments

Norway maple in autumn by SB Johnny, via Wikimedia Commons

By Jacqueline Austin

I didn’t have a happy childhood.  But it purported to be a religious one.  I was forced to go to Hebrew school several afternoons a week—plus attend services on Friday nights and Saturday mornings.  And I’d never had any experience of God.  So one day I’m 11 years old and walking to elementary school, and there’s this maple tree?  And it’s fall.  So this maple tree’s leaves are all yellow and shiny gold.  And its trunk is ebony black, wet and smelling salty, from the previous night’s rain.  It’s the biggest tree on the block before Jessie’s block (she’s the girl who liked horses, who later became a veterinarian)—the only block in half a mile which means something to me.  And it’s 7 in the morning on a very cold fall day in New York.  The early sunlight is shining through every leaf, and quivering in all the puddles.  And as I walk toward the giant maple with the golden leaves, suddenly the wind comes up.  My hair flies into my face and then away from it, streaming behind my head.  Tears start up into my eyes.  And I blink up at the tree, and all the shiny leaves are quivering, and each is edged in a jagged line of gold, and the tree explodes with light and it is full of God.

So I wrote a poem that day?  And I can’t remember it.  But the gist of the poem was that the puddles were doorways into another world, a world the inverse of ours, which only appeared slowly, in the rain.  And whenever the puddles evaporated, this other world would go away, with the people walking upside down in it, not even in Australia.

Copyright 2012 by Jacqueline Austin.  All rights reserved.  Reprinted with slight changes from Things That Are Wonderful 2011.

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§ 7 Responses to Trees With God In Them

  • So beautiful, Jackie. Thank you. Anne

  • Kaitlin says:

    Oh wow. I’ve had moments like that. You captured it perfectly.

  • Writing Jobs says:

    Great post. I enjoyed reading your blog today.

    If you love to write we would love for you to join us!

    Writer Jobs

  • I can just picture it, though I don’t remember that specific tree. Remember the lone maple tree in the playground? I think it had the most colorful leaves I have ever seen on a maple. I also remember the cherry tree in your backyard.

  • jacajacjac says:

    Vicky! Oh my God. Hi =)

    I do remember that maple in the playground. But this tree was on the way from your house and mine, to Wheeler Avenue. I can’t remember the name of the block. But you went down Cornwell Avenue, turned left, and there it was, at the end of a dead end street.

    I think we used to cut through the fence and cross the stream, to get to the school, but I don’t remember the details–do you?

  • Chris Danes says:

    As I am reading your post I wonder- when have I heard of jews discussing experiencing god? I don’t recall. I have a vague sense of christians making god references; burning bush, show me a sign, etc. but I don’t recall this about jewish recollections.. but I digress..

    The golden maple leaves are such a lovely vivid image leading to a magical “somewhere down there”, with a hint of “real”, “whenever the puddles evaporated”. I believe you! And it’s lonely.. you walking, unconnected, with only the possibility of connection, evaporating….. but still, filled with golden wonder. (Splendor?)

    • jacajacjac says:

      Well, there’s quite a discussion in mystic and scholarly Judaism re the female presence of the divine–God’s immanence within matter, kind of his ionic charge (Shekhina). But girls weren’t really supposed to be aware of such things, much less discuss them, when I was growing up. What we were supposed to do was listen to the guys, and shut up.
      Thanks for your beautiful comments =)

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