Thoughts recovered after a wander through the woods

December 1, 2010

Walking through the forest near our home we often come upon ancient (dead)grape vines.  Very few are still sprouting any living leaves, but none have fruit.  More often than not the vines are long dead, leaving tangled, twisted exfoliated reminders of the life lived before we were born.

An age of man ago, some vines had wound their way up already massive mature trees, and formed a living lattice around the tremendous trunks of an ancient beech tree.  Only by virtue of their age and size were the trees not brought down by the persistent pulling of the vines, and so a symbiotic relationship formed.  The tree carrying the vine skyward, so that the grapes would receive enough light to live another summer.  The vines hung on for dear life, and continued to grow skyward even as the beach bent its will and limbs toward the heaven.  I said symbiotic, but I really don’t know what advantage the tree gained from this arrangement.

Eventually, after decades of fruitless growth, the vine left only brittle remnants of its past.  Oh, it also left young boys something to climb, and dream of being Tarzan of the Squirrels.  (There being no Apes in Western New York.)

Other vines, by choice or chance (my guess, chance) grew along the ground.  These never received as much sunshine as their tree-dwelling relatives, so the vines were slighter, slimmer.   Weaker.  As seasons waxed and waned, slowly new beech trees began to grow up through the forest floor, and on occasion the beaches caught up the vine in its tiny bifurcating branches, and lifted it skyward, a millimeter at a time.  After dozens of summers the once trailing vine grew ten, fifteen, sometimes twenty feet in the air; a giant suspension bridge for  insects and small creatures.  These vines also grew and brought forth fruit until it also was shaded to the point of death, so now brittle brown tendrils of ancient grape vines hang from the trees and give only a glimpse of the life they once held.

While the life of a grape-vine can be measure in decades, and most of those that once grew in the forest near my home have long been dead, they give a reminder or two to the living.  Keep your face turned toward the sun.  Support others in their climb, without thinking of your own benefit.  Lift those that have fallen.  Realize that one’s lifetime only lasts for a while, but others will follow, so leave something worthwhile behind.

Jesus taught some very good lessons about grapevines, too.  (Check out John 15; you might even like Bruce Wilkinson’s Secrets of the Vine.)

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