A tree is a wonderful thing. It asks for nothing except sun and rain and stretches out its branches to give shelter, shade, and a home to multitudes of birds. It is a constant in mythologies around the world, appearing in Norse legend as Yggdrasil and in China as the immortality-giving peach tree which bore fruit once in three thousand years. There is also the Tree of Life, which is a revered symbol in many cultures.
I really love trees, so when my friend, Marilyn, sent me the Boston Globe article about Isy Mekler and his project, I was excited and intrigued.
According to the article, thirteen year old Isy decided to tackle childhood illiteracy for his Bar Mitzva project. He wrote to as many artists and writers as he could with the request that they draw a unique, three dimensional tree. Isy’s plan was to then donate these special trees to Reach Out and Read, a nonprofit promoting early literacy, so that the trees could be auctioned at their annual fund raiser. Thirty five artists honored Isy’s request and drew from his or her experience to create unique and personal trees.
What a wonderful project, I thought—and then the inevitable question: what sort of tree would I have chosen to create? Out of all the trees that I have loved, which one has inspired me the most?
Not an easy question, and to answer it I sifted through a wealth of memories. There were the Camphor trees my uncles had in their garden, aromatic and stout and easy to climb (my Uncle Joe was known to have shimmied up the Camphor tree by his window after a late night out). So, Camphor trees. But, wait—what about pine trees? The sweeping Japanese pine, the towering redwoods, and the long-legged Carolina variety that bend and dance with the wind?
Camphors for remembrance, the pines for their resilience and their evergreen presence…. but would I choose either of these to represent my inspiration to write and create art? The question and the choice remained difficult.
Our history helps to shape us and our goals, but we draw our hopes and our dreams from the essence of ourselves. So to choose ‘my’ tree I need to reach that quiet place that exists in all of us and to see with the eyes of the heart.
There I found the Ume, a species of apricot tree that grows in Japan and blooms in deepest winter. Though it might be easily overlooked in another season, this tree illumines the January garden with its dark, leafless branches and its small, pale flowers. A quiet, elegant presence in that bleak month, it is to me a symbol of tenacity, of perseverance, of hope.
Undaunted by cold,
Ringed around a golden heart
Tender, pale petals.
Yes! My choice is made! Now, I pass the question on to you, my friends and colleagues. What would your tree be like?
Read Isy Mekler’s story at: