If I took you to the fishing hole by my house, you might not be impressed at first. A dirty concrete path that used to be a road curves right down into the water, and muddy bottles stand guard at the base of a tall rock with a groove to put your foot in when you climb up. On a rainy spring day, you would have trouble seeing past all the murky water and gritty gravel, but maybe, if you looked a little longer, you would see what I see. You would see that large trees with wide green leaves and small flowering buds hang over the prickly bushes, protecting them from the harsh downpour yet still letting enough water through for them to grow. You would see the billowing, twisting vines wrapped around the sturdy trunks and the squawking birds nestling against helpful branches. And you would see that the trees are more than just trunks, limbs, and leaves. I hope, if I took you to the fishing hole on a rainy spring day, you would see the kindness of the trees.
Soon, perhaps a week or two later, I would take you there again, and you would find the scene entirely altered. No rain and mud this time, but a beacon of sunlight washing warmly over the view and burning in the heart of every visitor. You wouldn’t see the empty soda cans or the worn pavement. You would only see the brilliance of the trees with their flowers in full bloom, some pearly white, others a daring pink. No two are the same, and none can look so beautiful without the others. The very contrast of the scene is its magic, and, if you remembered your last visit, you would see how the rain brought these flowers to life. Every bush, every sapling is filled with the gifts of the rain. I hope, if I took you to the fishing hole on a sunny spring day, you would appreciate all the flowers of the trees.
Then, we would wait for summer. If I took you to the fishing hole in the summer, you would see that the flowers were gone. The small saplings would be bigger and stronger than they were before, and all the trees would rustle together in waves of deep green. You might tap your finger on your chin and say to me, “Ah, I see. Even though the trees begin the year with their different flowers, they are all the same now. The same green marks them, the same breeze sways them. They are equals.” And I would shake my head and smile because you haven’t looked closely enough. Take a look at the maple and the pine, the first with its broad leaf, the second with its thin needle. Can you honestly say that these trees are the same? I hope, if I took you to the fishing hole on a windy summer day, you would notice all the leaves of the trees.
Next would come autumn, early autumn, just as the leaves lose their green and begin to reveal their natural colors. The fishing hole becomes quieter in autumn as the air chills, and the ground dries up so that there are fewer insects buzzing around your ankles. If you went to the fishing hole in autumn, you would see that the leaves were speckled with bold oranges, light yellows, and earthy browns, blending in a medley of color. Perhaps you’d think that I was showing you this scene so that you would see the royal tones of the oak, and you’d be right. But if you only looked for the oak, you would miss the beauty of the humble brown cedar leaves, which may be even more stunning for their subtlety. I hope, if I took you to the fishing hole on an early autumn day, you would see the grace of every tree’s colors.
Your final visit must be on a winter’s day. Not the sparkling winter of a fairy tale, but one of those days in mid-December that are filled with grey skies and leftover slush from a recent snow. Don’t let the dazzling scenes from your previous visits distract you because this scene will be the most beautiful one of all. If I took you to the fishing hole on a slushy day in winter, most of the trees would be bare, their thin, knobby limbs reaching up to the sky in supplication. All the flowers of spring and leaves of autumn would have disappeared, leaving the branches to face the open air, alone and exposed. The branches are the bones of the tree, and, without birds or insects to adorn their bows, they are utterly friendless. Even the evergreen seems empty without other foliage to keep it company. And as you look about yourself, you might take your time, drinking in the bareness of the scene, and then you might say, “I understand. Although the trees change throughout the year, now that they no longer have leaves, I can see that they are the same. Underneath all the decoration, they are, after all, just trees.” But, again, I shake my head, grinning. If you’d look again, you’d see that the trees are not the same. The bark of the redwood is not like the bark of the willow. The crooked trunk of the tree on the hill is not like the straight trunk by the water. Even at their core, the trees are not the same. I hope, if I took you to the fishing hole on a slushy winter day, you would love all the branches of the trees.
If I took you to the fishing hole these five times, you would probably ask what I wanted you to see. “The trees kept changing,” you would observe. “But they never became the same. They were never equal.” Then I would let you think about the trees for a while, and, if I let you think for a while, I hope you would realize that the trees were always equal. While some kept their leaves year-round or were better able to survive the harsh rains, those trees were no more valuable than the others. Some trees required the help of other trees, some had to grow around jagged rocks, and some had to give up their leaves when winter arrived. But the same God created each tree, formed its branches to His liking, colored its leaves just so. Each tree is a perfect creation, and God knew its journey before He even planted it. He did not want the subtle cedar to feel less than the magnificent oak, and He did not want the oak to feel guilty about its radiant leaves. The trees are proud of what God gave them, and they know that God sees them as interdependent equals. This great lesson is what I see in the trees, and, even more, I see myself in the trees. And I see you in the trees. So, I hope, if I took you to the fishing hole, that maybe, just maybe, we could celebrate the trees together.
*This essay was first published in the self-published book Diversely Kentucky: A Short Collection of Writings Celebrating the Hidden Treasures of the Commonwealth.
Hope Siler is a senior at University of the Cumberlands. She is majoring in English and minoring in French. After graduation, she will be attending Ohio University’s M. A. in English/Literary History program as a teaching assistant.