Reading by Liz Helgesen (Download file)
There was a custom in the mid-eighteen hundreds of planting twin trees to celebrate a marriage and the starting of a home. The stance of these two, just ten feet apart, recalls a couple standing together on the porch steps, holding hands. The reach of their shade links the front porch with the barn across the road, creating a shady path of back and forth for that young family.
I realize that those first homesteaders were not the beneficiaries of that shade, at least not as a young couple. They must have meant for their people to stay here. Surely those two were sleeping up on Cemetery Road long before the shade arched across the road. I am living today in the shady future they imagined, drinking sap from trees planted with their wedding vows. They could not have imagined me, many generations later, and yet I live in the gift of their care. Could they have imagined that when my daughter Linden was married, she would choose leaves of maple sugar for the wedding giveaway?
Such a responsibility I have to these people and these trees, left to me, an unknown come to live under the guardianship of the twins, with a bond physical, emotional, and spiritual. I have no way to pay them back. Their gift to me is far greater than I have ability to reciprocate. They're so huge as to be nearly beyond my care, although I could scatter granules of fertilizer at their feet and turn the hose on them in summer drought. Perhaps all I can do is love them. All I know to do is to leave another gift, for them and for the future, those next unknowns who will live here.
Excerpted from Braided Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
SEED QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you relate to leaving gifts behind far beyond your own lifetime? Can you share a story of a thoughtful action someone long before you took that has benefited you directly? What inspires you to pay your gifts forward?