Sense of Belonging...

Heartwood: A Reverie

Learn character from trees, values from roots, and change from leaves.
— Tasneem Hameed

da Vinci rule of trees
A page from one of da Vinci’s notebooks

Leonardo daVinci knew something about trees. He considered them, he studied them, he drew them…often. He even developed a mathematical rule about them. I picture good old Leo lying on the cool soil under a tree, looking up…noticing the many branches. Then, deep in thought, he bounces up, running to the fringes of the tree and considering it. Moving further away and peering at the tree’s completeness, he cocks his head to the side, squinting his eyes for better focus. I picture him returning to his Italian villa and quickly gathering the writing instrument of the day to write “all the branches of a tree at every stage of its height, when put together, are equal in thickness to the trunk.”

Leo had determined that the surface area of each of the tree’s branches were equal to the surface area of the trunk.

I find this fascinating…not so much in a mathematical way (I will leave that up to the very smart people in this world), but in a family tree sort of way. It brings me joy to think that the sum of all the branches in our family tree equates to the size of the trunk.

da Vinci Tree
Sala delle Asse, Sforza Castle, Milan

I have been thinking a lot about our family tree of late. I have been busy digitizing the family memories of 8mm, super 8, and VHS tapes. For years, I have scanned and uploaded digital copies of family photographs, attempting to catalog each one. I have been active in genealogy websites, researching long ago ancestors. And now, together with siblings, I assist in planning that pinnacle of all family gatherings…no, not Thanksgiving at my house…but the FAMILY REUNION. Consequently, I lay on the cool sheets of my bed, close my eyes, and imagine looking up through the many branches of my family tree, deep in cheerful thought, cocking my head, squinting my eyes, attempting to focus on all the connections. Yep, Leonardo and me…

The Family Tree

 Let’s take our hearts for a walk in the woods and listen to the magic whispers of old trees.
Author Unknown

 It makes perfect sense to consider the anatomy of a tree when thinking about family. The tree is a remarkable gift from God, as is the family. Poets, philosophers, and scientists have all intellectually pondered trees. And now, as the resident family blogger, I ponder our botany. With a nod to Joyce Kilmer, I think that I shall never see a reunion as lovely as this tree…

The Leaves

Trees love to toss and sway; they make such happy noises.
— Emily Carr

Gleeful Abandon
Some of that gleeful abandon

When I look at a tree, the first things that I notice are the leaves. They are of different sizes, all vibrant and often making gentle noises while they rustle in the breeze. The leaves are where the magic happens – the photosynthesis. Through this process, the tree is fed, and oxygen is released.

The analogy here is far too easy. When I see large gatherings of families, the first things that I notice are the children. They run around with gleeful abandon. It is hard not to smile, not to watch as they play, and not to breathe them in like fresh air.

An important part of any reunion, as it will be with ours, is the bringing together, and the introduction of, geographically distant cousins, whether they be 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. I look forward to sitting in the shade and watching the play, seeing them naturally form lifelong bonds of friendship.

The Twigs

Listen to the trees as they sway in the wind. Their leaves are telling secrets.
Vera Nazarian

The small branches that started as leaves, shooting upwards to the sun, represent the current growth of this woody plant. Often times the twigs bear scars from when the leaf falls off. The twigs might have thorns and spines in protection against unwanted touch. Clearly, in reunion terms, the twigs are our tweens, our teens, and our young adults in their entire hormonal splendor. These twigs challenge and frustrate us, yet they are growing into stronger twigs on their way to become branches.

The Branches

 Trees are love
; trees are life
; Long-standing hearts of nature
; absorbers of human strife.
— Terri Guillemets

Providing structure and support, the branches of the tree care for and protect the twigs and the leaves. They feed the new growth by gathering nourishment from the trunk. They hold tight during storms. Large branches are called boughs. Our family boughs consist of the “not all about me anymore” generation…those new families made through thoughtful grafting of branches from other trees. These are the couples who work hard to cling together and to raise strong families, all the while working to prevent the breaking of the bough…avoiding the nursery rhyme disaster of the cradle falling.

The Trunk

 If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees.
–Hal Borland

Treaty Oak
Treaty Oak, Jacksonville, FL

 The sapwood and cambium of the gnarly old trunk of our tree is where we baby boomers hang out. In botanical terms, the cambium serves as the formative vascular layer, giving rise to new growth. Like an old rock band from the 60s, we keep the beat, we sing the songs, we tell the stories, and we nourish the next generations. We are the ones who painstakingly plan the reunions!

The Bark

There are rich counsels in the trees.
Herbert P. Horne

I suppose we can say that my father, the patriarch of our rather large family, is the outer bark on the trunk of our tree. As the oldest living member, he continues to maintain his role of the family protector. While not able to stop the storms that often affect his clan, he spends his time preparing them. At nearly 89, he continues in his attempts to guide, to teach, and to hold tight to his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, in-laws and outlaws (wink). The near future gathering gives him something to look forward to, to renew and revel in the anticipation of his family all in one place, at least for a short time.

The Roots

 A portion of your soul has been entwined with mine; a gentle kind of togetherness, while separately we stand; as two trees deeply rooted in separate plots of ground…
— Janet Mills

A healthy tree has a large root system that absorbs nutrients to feed and enlarge the tree. While our large perennial roots stem from Missouri, our feeder roots have taken us twisting through all regions of the United States (and now Italy), merging with other tree’s roots bringing in all those wonderful in-laws.

The Soul

 Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.
Rabindranath Tagore

Trees have a central supporting pillar consisting of material that is no longer living. While dead, this material does not decay or lose strength. It serves as the inner core. I like to think of it as the soul of the tree.

Cheshire cat
Vanishing cat, leaving the smile behind

The soul of our tree, with the memories of those once deeply loved, now lost, is always with us. This collective soul has built us a substantial tree house where treasures are stored and often shared amongst the branches. Look closely at the many facets of our tree and you will find glimpses of these treasures…Clementine’s eyes…Edward’s innovation…Jean’s heart…Tom’s humor…and deep in the green foliage, if you look close enough…you will see the smile, left behind like the Cheshire Cat, of Helen.  Oh, and by the way…the name for this central layer of the trunk of the tree is very aptly called…the Heartwood.

Reunion Reverie

…as I begin to rouse from my daydream, I further ponder the importance of reunions. They are an opportunity to be caressed by the leaves, to be cooled by the shade, to be hugged by the branches, and to connect to the heart.

Leonardo pokes me and quotes an anonymous source, “Climb a tree – it gets you closer to heaven.” Boy, that Leo…gotta love him.

Credit: cjn, ISNS, Erik Jacobson
Credit: cjn, ISNS, Erik Jacobson

Let’s take our hearts for a walk in the woods and listen to the magic whispers of old trees.
Author Unknown

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