Still it Lives

They planted new trees on the trail last year. Some of them died, their leaves fell off and they stood there, silent bare branches, witnesses to the difficulty of horticulture. In due course they were dug up and replaced.
    Then came winter, and all the leaves fell—not for long, this is Dallas after all—and then the budding came, tiny pouches at the end with the slight hint of color, and soon leaves again.
    A bare tree reveals its beauty in organic geometry. One of those new ones—it’s at least twice my height, and its branches, being still young, all slope upwards with delicate, unscarred strokes, perfectly spaced one from the other, like a cluster of ballerinas with slender lifting arms. This tree has not lost branches due to storm, and is too young to have suffered infestation.
    And yet life is delicate, poised at any moment to slip off balance into death.
    When the other trees budded, this tree remained bare. Passing its way, I looked for it in the morning dark: its stark white limbs, unmuted by color of leaf, were an ethereal presence. It did not change. Its presence was almost unnatural. The other trees were changing daily, as leaf grew to cover other leaf, filling in the spaces, obscuring the structure underneath. But this tree was fixed.
    I wondered if it was dead. I hoped it wasn’t. I hated to think of it being dug up and replaced.
    Just a couple of weeks ago, the buds were there. Now they are little leaves.
    It lives.
    The patience of the vinedresser: Don’t have me cut it down yet. Let me try another season of care, with fertilizer and so forth. Wouldn’t we be pleased if it bore fruit again?
    Yet even a dead tree can come back to life—dead tree, dry bones, stony heart. None are beyond hope.
    Out & About. On Maundy Thursday at 7 p.m., and at the Easter Vigil, Saturday at 8 p.m., I will preach at the traditional services at Church of the Incarnation in Dallas.
    On April 28, the second Sunday of Easter, I give a talk on True Friendship—David and Jonathan, or Job?—at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas, at 9:30 a.m.
    Have you discovered the joy of reading Muriel Spark, the Scottish Catholic novelist? The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is worth reading—and has religious depths edited out of the film. I’ll lead a discussion on it at Incarnation at 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, and if you read it, I hope you can join us.
    My friend Heather Cross has just published (with Farrar, Straus and Giroux) her second novel, Grievous. It is good beyond measure, set in an English country boarding school in the 1930s, and has themes of music, sport, punishment, and second chances. I’ll probably write about it later, but in the meantime, I commend it to your reading.

The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God who Gives and Takes Away."