That Special Tree


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:


About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: My blog is here: Or friend me on Facebook!

8 responses »

  1. Maureen,
    Is a Saguaro a tree? Or should I pick the Palo Verde with its green branches so it can photosynthesize without leaves? I see the problem of picking a favorite tree, but I think you have made the perfect choice.

  2. Maureen, I love all sorts of trees, particularly the flowering ones such as magnolia. Our grandson Ari, since he was only 6 or 7 months old, showed his interest in trees by lifting his arm I assume to pay homage to each gift of nature, bush or tree. In his sweet innocence he also gives obeisance to the artificial paper trees in the hallways of the condo complex where he lives. No favoritism for him. Love Fran

    • So cool! I think Ari is going to be a philosopher… he has his priorities right. “Give obeisance to no man but give beauty its due.” I love it!
      Thank you, my friend, for sharing…

  3. Maureeen,
    I love maples. They usher in spring with their red buds against the bare, grey bark of winter. Then, their seeds twirl to the ground like helicopters. What a delight for all ages. Next, maples display lush green foliage to round out the summer. All these stages are special, but the reason maples are best known is for their fall display of brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds. Fall color brings tourist from miles away. Have you ever made a special trip to see them?

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