Wednesday, April 18, 2007

the tree

My seven year old son Nicolas has been a chatterbox these days when I pick him up in the afternoon from school. I don’t think there’s a minute that goes by without his commenting on something. On Monday he was particularly excited because, he told me, on Tuesday they were going to do art in class.

On Tuesday’s walk home from school he went on and on about a tree he made in art that day. And, he assured me, we could make one when we got home.

But Tuesday afternoon didn’t afford time to make a tree because we had more important things to do: namely, we had to go to the local mall to enjoy free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. To be sure, that was an extra activity, not customarily part of our Tuesday after-school routine, so when we got home it was “do homework, have dinner, get jammies on, brush teeth, read stories, pray, go to bed”. There was no time to make a tree.

In the midst of the busyness, however, the tree was not forgotten. So, on this afternoon’s walk home guess what Nic talked about? The tree. Today, he described it in greater detail: “I need five hands and five pieces that look like this,” he said, drawing five straight lines in the air.

I thought, “Well, he’ll get it out of his system once he does his homework and then he’ll move on to items of more interest.”

But this was not the case. On the contrary, as soon as Nic finished his homework he proceeded to get five pieces of paper. He cut each piece of paper in half. Then, one piece at a time, he traced his hand and cut carefully around the outline. Five hands.

After that, he drew a long, thin rectangle and cut it out. One rectangle per piece of paper. Five times.

He colored each hand green and each rectangle brown.

Then, he asked me for some assistance. “We need the piece like this,” he said, drawing what looked like a fat shape in the air.

I figured he wanted me to make the body of the tree. He went and got another full sheet of paper and brought it out to me. I started to draw as best I could, and he sat beside me, looking intently, grunting involuntarily when I moved the pencil in a direction he did not expect. At first I thought he was going to reject my improvisational drawing, but, in the end, it passed his inspection.

Next steps: color the trunk and assemble the pieces. With focused attention he finished the tree.

Tonight, I have the house to myself. The kids are in bed and the dog is lazing on the couch. And I am enjoying the quiet. No music, no TV, just silence.

I sat down and read: “I will wait for the Lord. My soul waits…”

I let those words sink into my heart. Slowly praying, “My soul waits…”

I read on: “Lord, You have always given bread for the coming day; and though I am poor, today I believe.”

And I thought about the letter Heather wrote earlier today concerning one final school payment we had to make.

“Today I believe.”

Then: “Lord, You have always given peace for the coming day; and though of anxious heart, today I believe.”

And: “Lord, You have always spoken when time was ripe; and though you be silent now, today I believe.”

The silence was enough. And in that silence I thought back to my son, playing intently that afternoon in simplicity: paper, pencil, small scissors, two crayons and clear tape atop a solid wood table.

And it hit me: that was his act of worship. Simple, wordless, silent and focused. Green hands raised in praise; spring from the brown earth.

Once completed, he raised his creation to show his father. And, as he presented it to me, the branches swayed and the leaves fluttered. Then, he told me we needed to hang it somewhere.

You can be assured: the tree has stuck to my heart.

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