Tree planting

2 Nov 2007


Week's end and my first born has finished his schooling. All the week of dress ups, parties and special events has finished. Time for him to rest a little then begin his study for exams. Then, when they are done, his thirteen years of school will truly be finished.

Yesterday evening there was a church service in the school chapel followed by a tree planting ceremony. The parents were invited to attend and it really was a pleasant time with readings and hymns of hopes for the future and recognition of the responsibilities of adulthood. It was interesting watching the students walk out of the Chapel; some swaggering, some looking down embarrassed, some smirking, others looking relaxed and comfortable.

This week has seen them start to test and push the boundaries of school life. A reasonably safe action in the last official week of school. You could see the rebellion in some of the faces and some of the hairstyles as they try to be different but usually end looking like their friends.

It's a funny time isn't it. It is the job of the teenager to test boundaries, often their own imaginary boundaries. Some will go deeper and have already begun to really think deeply beyond the shallow appearance based rebellion. I think that is the real job of adolescence; to start questioning the natural order that they see around them, not necessarily to reject it but to see why it exists, how they fit in, do they want to fit, do they want to try to change the world. I think it is a process that only begins in adolescence, for many it continues through the twenties and beyond. I think it is sad if this questioning, this quest for self knowledge flickers briefly as a teenager and then disappears , snuffed out by worldly worries and materialistic, shallow quests.

The quest should gradually mature and be less about teen angst and more about the human condition, about living a life of integrity and establishing principles that guide your life. I know from experience this is a lifetime's work that becomes truer and richer as life's journey shapes us. Surely that is the job of education; to inspire a life time of learning , of questioning, of research, of listening to the voices of experience both living and those who have passed on but left us their wisdom in their writings.

Kate's rose

At the tree planting ceremony the chaplain read the
"Prayer of Praise for Trees"

We praise Thee, O God, that we

who have not the skill and the power to paint or sing

may still express creativeness by humble toil,

Ours is to trace the loveliest flower

and translate into melody

the music of a leafy tree.

And we can plant and planting make pictures

to fill a painter's soul

with envy of our yokel role.

For nature's pigments we can take

and steep them in the brooding earth

so subtly that when thence they break

sweet patterned loveliness has birth.

Deo grazias.

We thank Thee, O God.

Then we all replied with:

They that plant a tree are the servants of God.

They provide a kindness for many generations

and faces that they have not seen shall bless them.

I thought that was a lovely ode to gardeners and to all the domestic arts really. Even if you are uncomfortable with the concept of God it is still a wonderful sentiment. Gardening and homemaking are past-times seen as commonplace and utilitarian, but the everyday actions they involve can bring a beauty to our lives by making the simple things around us truly uplifting if we take the time to really see.

The message is also that we don't have to do something that the whole world takes notice of to effect the world. The simple act of planting and tending a tree can make a difference to unborn generations and even though they won't know who planted it, that tree will offer them shade, play, perhaps food, perhaps fuel for their fire.

The simple act of making and tending a home, making a creative haven for our loved ones goes down through the generations too.

The simple, commonplace act of nurturing and raising a child by all those who have an impact on that child's life; mainly his parents but also grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, family friends, school teachers, the community, our governments has an impact on future generations.

back garden in spring

Most of us won't achieve anything that creates headlines all around the world but we definitely, for good or bad, effect the lives of those around us, especially those entrusted to our care. Our partners and our children are affected by how we live our lives just as we are effected by their choices.
We can't change others, nor should we want to because that is their own work. We can work on ourselves though and be an example worth following. Sometimes all we need to feel differently about our lives is a change in attitude or a change of habit, working with what we already have but looking at it differently.
Seeing what we have as a blessing, a difficult situation as an opportunity to grow, mundane work as a chance to make life more comfortable for ourselves or those around us.
Doing whatever we do to the best of our ability and with a willing heart gives our children a life skill to copy that will enrich their lives whether they choose to be an astronaut or a shop assistant, someone who cares for many or who cares for their own family.

snow in summer

9 Responses to “Tree planting”

  1. Jenny, first, congratulations to your son! Second, I strongly agree specifically with one point you made here: we don't earn headlines, but we certainly make an impact!

  2. A really lovely post, Jenny.
    Good luck to Louis both in his exams and in whatever he decides to do next.

  3. What a wonderful and wise post, Jenny. Having been at the place you and your son are standing at now, I send my congratulations to him, and to you and your husband for guiding him through to this point. I agree totally about the place of rebellion in teen lives and also how it can shape us throughout our lives if we are brave enough to let it.

  4. "we don't have to do something that the whole world takes notice of to effect the world" - a totally awesome thought Jenny and one we should keep reminding ourselves of in our everyday lives. Thanks you for the inspirtation. Good luck to Louis in his future :)

  5. Beautiful post. As a someone who wants desperately to create widespread change, I have come to realize how true your statement is:

    "We can't change others, nor should we want to because that is their own work. We can work on ourselves though and be an example worth following."

    It's so wonderful how in tune you are to your children's thoughts.

  6. Congratulations to your son! And thank you for sharing the beautiful poem.

  7. Jenny, I am liberated from the perception of domestic work as "drudgery" by such beautifully articulated thoughts. Better go and make some lunch. Thanks Jenny. I also love your description of adolescence. It provides a really different perspective for those of us with younger children whose testing of boundaries is just beginning.

  8. Wonderful post. Congratulations to you on raising your child to this level.


Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I don't always have time to reply but I do read every message you leave.