The leaves in the photograph belong to a red maple that preens outside my writing room. A tree to make your heart sing. I call my tree Brother Maple so you can guess I’ve been reading about St. Francis. (God’s Fool: The Life of Francis of Assisi by Julien Green). By the time I finish re-reading this wonderful book, my tree’s vibrant scarlet leaves will have gradually disappeared.
Nearby is a boulevard lined with ginko trees, those ancient golden wonders. The yellow, fan-shaped leaves are dense, as bright as sunshine. Now is the time to drive past slowly so as not to miss the miracle. Ginko’s drop all their leaves at once. Overnight. The following morning, nothing but bare limbs above a dew-blessed golden carpet. Ginko trees have been performing this magic act for 270 million years. A single tree can live one thousand years. That’s all science can tell me.
There’s something going on with me and the divinity of trees and God’s kindly saints. Something that might explain why, after seven decades as a Protestant, I converted to Catholicism.
I have a very wise and wonderful friend. Ruth is a pastor. She and I have lunched weekly for eight years. Hour upon hour, we talk theology. Amidst frowns and shushes of more subdued diners, Ruth and I passionately debate topics such as: What is the difference between faith and belief? (Still unsettled) Last year, I told Ruth I had been an unholy slug in my pew. The emptiness I felt had certainly affected my writing. After all the research I had done on my birth mother, my memoir hadn’t found it’s purpose. Maybe it was wrong—selfish—to be a writer.
She thought a moment and said, “You have grown deep roots. Now rest. Soon you will grow new branches and flower as God intends.”
I had no idea what that meant. Until I experienced the Mass in a little Catholic church. After being embraced as family, as the genuine person behind my usual Sunday morning mask, everything changed. My lethargy lifted as if by a great and kindly wind. I gathered the courage to pick up my pen. I wrote a book of truths.
All my leaves came down.
Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. St. Francis of Assisi.