Here it is the day after New Year’s and what a day of rebirth it was. Following weeks of rapidly changing weather punctuated by heavy rains and brutal bone-chilling cold, a much-welcomed warm spell beckoned us to venture outdoors. And more so than our love of landscape and for all we are blessed, I really enjoyed the time yesterday sitting by my wife in the flower beds as she gave her Breck’s patch of gladiolas their annual haircut. It seems we spoke about everything under the sun, from plans for the new year to our individual likes and dislikes concerning what and where to plant new flowers. Spring comes sooner than one may think and as for this day it was beautiful though much work is needed as many of our plants have been burned by the recent cold.

Surrounded by the skeletal forms of barren trees cloaked in winter dormancy, my thoughts turned to genealogy and the importance of framework. What if each tree I saw about us represented some distinctive family? In that possibility I am reminded of the value trees offer in terms of illustrating the nature of timing and its role in the calculation of distances between cousins. Living trees really are a great analogy for visualizing and expressing the continuum of nature and its sustaining flow from earth and trunk through outreaching limbs to each and every new leaf. I notice in nature that some trees may live in shadow and grow slowly or even fail to reach maturity. Others do fine though in time a limb here or there may be pruned by disease or the brutality of nature’s strong winds. Everything matters and in everything there is impact.

Sharing these thoughts with my wife, she acknowledged the idea of framework though pointed out with a smile how I loved to dig deeper, spending inordinate amounts of time defining each “leaf” of the family tree through the sort of stories often times omitted by others. She suggested that maybe my trees were more like Christmas trees. Yes, the Christmas tree may be known for its stereotypical framework though also important are the stories of each and every ornament. Some represent special times or places while others were handcrafted and shared with love from children now grown with trees of their own. Ornaments too are markers in time restoring Christmas memories otherwise lost in time. And going a step further, I realize the Bible is singularly a story with beginning and end though within its framework we are often drawn to passages as vividly important as is the whole. For me and the challenge I find in exploring genealogy, the development of “family tree” offers a necessary tool most-used in sharing our family stories.

Back to the workday in the flower bed, we noticed shoots already breaking ground below the cold-burned gladiola leaves. And beside the place where I sat to talk with my wife, a white chrysanthemum given to us years ago by my wife’s mother was bursting forth with buds awaiting warmer weather. Unlike the barren trees all about me, later this year the chrysanthemums will redefine themselves under profuse veils of daisy-like white flowers. Margaret would certainly be pleased hearing our conversation as we now have four such plants thanks to our efforts to honor the future of her gift through propagation.

Considering all things are possible, I ponder what a family history might look like if built on the framework of a Christmas Tree, or perhaps my mother-in-law’s gifted flower.  Would the story be the same and as for those interpreting it, would their experience be any different?  I don’t know, but just maybe I’ll give it a try and someday you can let me know what you think.


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