What Is the Truth of a Tree?

What is the truth of a tree? What’s to wonder about? A tree is a tree. Maybe the truth is that it is an oak tree. Or a pine tree. Or is the truth of a tree that it is in a forest in Colorado, or by a creek in Texas? Is the tree’s truth its age?

Maybe the truth of a tree is the birds that nest in its branches, or the fading of its leaves in autumn. Could it be the sap that runs in its veins, or the growth ring it acquires each year, expanding its girth? Maybe the truth of the tree is the fruit or seeds it produces, or the playground it provides for squirrels. Or the shade it sheds to shelter sensitive plants.

Perhaps the tree’s truth lies in the lumber it produces for building shelters, or the logs it yields for warming fuel. Its truth may emerge in newsprint, carrying other truth to your eyes.

These suggestions are all made from the eyes of an observer. What would the tree claim as its own truth? “I sprouted from an acorn 86 springs ago. I have survived droughts, floods, and kids nailing cleats to my trunk. I survived three onslaughts of gypsy moths, hordes of woodpeckers, boring beetles, and all sorts of other irritations. I have an ongoing relationship with the cute little maple growing next to me, and appreciate all the delicious thanks offerings the birds leave at my feet while perching on my branches.”

So, what is the truth of a tree? All this and more!

If discovering the truth of a tree is this challenging, how much more so the truth of your life.

As I wrote my Morning Pages recently, I had a vision of Truth as a lens, not an entity, which is the way I’ve been inclined to view it. Like, “What is the real truth of this situation?” The ultimate, core Truth?

Take the example of a child hitting a sibling. Mother asks, “Why did you hit her?” “She kicked my blocks over.” That sounds pretty fundamental, and with small children things tend to be so. But that truth is only part of the overall picture. Why did the sibling kick the blocks over? Why did the child choose the option of hitting rather than tattling? Were one or both of the children tired?

Truth is not a simple thing, and it is not a synonym for confession. To write truth, you need a point of view, and as you consider the situation, you’ll find layer upon layer, one angle after another. Part of your decision about which truth to write will depend on who you perceive your readers to be.

Now that I’ve built the case that there is no ultimate Truth, I’ll qualify that statement. A few years ago a friend’s husband lay dying. Many of her friends were baffled that she had prolonged his life in various ways for so long. Even she knew it made little sense. “What is keeping you from letting go,” I asked her one day.

“I love him, and I can’t imagine life without him.”

That, my friends, is Ultimate Truth, stripped down to the core. It doesn’t come from reason, logic, or explanation. There is truth, and there is Truth. Inescapable, unarguable Truth comes from the heart, and when you hear Truth, your heart tells you it is so. Whatever your point of view, whatever boundaries you put around disclosure, writing from the depths of your heart will convey Truth.

Write now: a list of seven statements that are Ultimate Truths in your life. Ultimate truth is that simple. It requires no more than a single statement.


ybonesy said...

I like that idea, the truth of a tree. Cottonwoods especially have significance in my life and my heritage. I once wrote about my father and how he reminded me of the cottonwood of the Rio Grande Valley.

Rick Hamrick said...

Sharon--this is my first visit here, brought about by your lovely and kind comment on the blog my wife and I share where we write about our relationship.

What a powerful story you tell today, the tale of the truth, that being perspective-based, and the Truth, which resonates in ones heart and validates the message for all to hear.

Thanks again for your comment, because I am grateful to now have your blog to enjoy because of it!

Ritergal said...

Ybonesy, I think I remember reading that post. It was powerful, and a moving tribute to your father.

Rick, come again often. I'll be back to visit your blog.