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A song by Lerner and Loewe opines, “I Talk to the Trees,” and that’s what most of us do in the autumn.
For five days earlier this fall, my wife and I traveled along the colorful Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, and the fall foliage was nothing short of breath-taking.
As we drove back to Kansas, the first thing we noticed in our own area was other beautiful trees, and even the absence of them along prairie hilltops.
When we pulled into our driveway, we didn’t look at how the grass needed to be mowed, or whether the scarecrow on the front porch had fallen over.
No, we talked to the trees.
We stood beside our car, suitcases in tow, and craned our necks to check the leaf-fall — how the ash trees were almost stripped and the maples were turning gloriously yellow and red.
So, I suppose we talked “about” the trees, but the 1951 Broadway musical “Paint Your Wagon” made taking “to” the trees so much more romantic.
Trees during the autumn are like snowflakes in the winter — they’re uniquely designed. No two are alike.
Even when you see a line of perfectly planted hickory, elm or maple trees, all bearing the same colors and all dropping their lovely leaves onto the landscape with equal grace, their leaves flutter to the earth in different directions. They lay on each other, against a tree trunk, inside a roof gutter, or in a soft pile against a fence.
In our trip to the Carolinas, we saw millions of trees, dotting hundreds of mountains. We expressed every conceivable ooh and ahh, and we snapped dozens of pictures to show our friends when we got home.
Funny thing, we never got around to our picture show, because everybody here has been talking to the trees, too.
Oh, sure, we lack a few mountains and tourist traps, and our parkway is composed of country roads that meander through the farm-and-ranch landscape that we know so well.
In truth, trees are much like people — individual, diverse, free and beautiful.
The people I encounter every day in southeast Kansas want the same rights that the trees enjoy — we call them God’s chosen flock, and they all have beautiful stories to tell, colors to proudly reveal and philosophies that each man, woman and child keeps close to their souls.
Like the trees, none of us wants to look or respond exactly like the one to the right or left of us. And, in case nobody ever gets around to taking our picture or drawing our likeness on parchment, we people-types are mighty happy just to be standing upright.
Here’s the thing about these trees of the autumn — the ones we spend lots of money to go see, photograph and admire: They are beautiful only when they stand alongside others. A hedge tree by itself isn’t too impressive. Neither is one pesky sumac tree. Same with a cedar tree.
But when they stand should-to-shoulder with a forest of other trees, the sight is magnificent.
Same with the folks who dot the small-town landscape. Individually, we’re all pretty plain. Those who pass by us seldom look twice.
But put a Methodist in the same pew with a Baptist; a mechanic working alongside a teacher; a banker helping out a merchant; a doctor tending to anyone who needs help; a Latino singing a Native American song; a grandpa teaching a kid how to fish — then you start to see the stunning forest that we traveled hundreds of miles to see last week.
There are groves of lovely people everywhere. We just need to look deep into their hearts and high up their branches to discover something that is God-designed and good-intended.
Just stand quietly alone. Now turn in all directions.
The trees are talking back to you.
Rudy Taylor and his family publish three weekly newspapers in southeast Kansas, with offices in Sedan, Caney, Cherryvale, Independence and Oswego.