The Kingdom is like a tree
On a sunny afternoon trees are offering shade, with branches reaching out far and wide, in every direction. Dappled light comes through the leaves forming a pattern on path and field.
On one side is a cottage and the inhabitants can be seen. A man stands, a woman sits beside him, their domestic animals are close by. Across the path in the filed cattle stand and lie in the shade. The whole scene is full of peace and wellbeing. The eye of the viewer is taken up the path to an entrance into further woodland.
How long have these trees been there? Who knows, it is a long time since they were saplings. A full grown tree probably began life before the people were born (and certainly the animals), and will most likely out-live them. This ‘before’ and ‘after’ gives to trees a special quality, in a sense immortalised – as trees are when they are painted.
The picture is Entrance to Cadzow Forest by Samuel Bough (1822-1878) in York Museum Trust. Bough painted often around this forest, capturing the mood of life and light around the trees.
Thus says the Lord God:
I myself will take a sprig
from the lofty top of a cedar;
I will set it out.
I will break off a tender one
from the topmost of its young twigs;
I myself will plant it
on a high and lofty mountain.
On the mountain height of Israel
I will plant it,
in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit,
and become a noble cedar.
Under it every kind of bird will live;
in the shade of its branches will nest
winged creatures of every kind.
I will put the cedar in the wilderness,
The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree;
I will place the juniper in the desert
Together with the box tree and the cypress,
That they may see and recognize,
And consider and gain insight as well,
That the hand of the Lord has done this,
And the Holy One of Israel has created it.
I have camped in the whispering forest of pines,
I have slept in the shadows of olives and vines;
In the knees of an oak, at the foot of a palm,
I have found good rest and slumbers balm.
And now when the morning gildes the boughs
Of the vaulted elm at the door of my house,
Open the window and make salute;
God bless thy branches and feed thy root;
Thou hast lived before, live after me,
Thou ancient, friendly, faithful tree
From: Poems, prose and songs of trees and woodland of South Carolina