The Movement of Trees

I had the bounty of visiting old growth Redwood forests in California many times. Once when my boys were ages six and eight respectively we drove down to the Bay Area from Oregon along the Old Redwood Highway. We took detours into some stands of ancient trees including the tallest one that is still standing. It was about as tall as a 35-story building.
Library of Congress Photograph - http://www.americaslibrary.gov/es/ca/es_ca_logging_1_e.html On the drive through Northern California we passed a logging operation where hundreds of old growth trees had been logged. My 8-year-old son turned to me and said, “Daddy, someone murdered those trees” and I said “Yes, that’s exactly what they did.”

How can an artist portray a tree in such a way as to make it appear to move? Vincent Van Gogh achieved movement in every painting he ever made of nature as did Marc Chagall. Note how the living Sun occupies the entire sky.
Vincent Van Gogh

When I am finishing a picture, I hold some God-made object up to it – a rock, a flower, the branch of a tree or my hand – as a final test. If the painting stands up beside a thing man cannot make, the painting is authentic. If there’s a clash between the two, it’s bad art. – Marc Chagall

Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. — Warren Buffet

“Flowers swung upon her branches in clusters of yellow flame, formed each to a glowing horn that spilled a golden rain upon the ground; and from the blossom of that tree there came forth warmth and a great light.” — So Tolkien writes of Laurelin, the Golden Tree

The Bahá’í Writings include countless references to trees in symbolic and powerful metaphors.

Bahá’u'llah
Bahá’u’lláh, The Persian Hidden Words

The Ridván is a beautiful garden, which the Master had planted in a plot of land which He had acquired. It is on the bank of a brook. There is a large mulberry tree with seats round its trunk. Many beautiful blossoming trees are now flourishing there, also flowers innumerable, and sweet-smelling herbs; it is a blaze of glorious colour and wonderful beauty. The scent of attar roses, of rosemary, bergamot, mint and thyme and balm, lemon-scented verbena, and musk makes the air sweet with their wealth of various fragrances. Scented white and scarlet and rose-coloured geraniums are there in wild luxuriance, and trees of pomegranate with their large, brilliant scarlet blossoms, also other lovely blooming shrubs. Each a symbol of devoted, loving service. — Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, p. 96

After driving for about half an hour we reached the garden where Bahá’u’lláh spent much of His time during His long years of exile in ‘Akká. Although this garden is small it is one of the loveliest spots we had ever seen. Bahá’u’lláh frequently said to His gardener, Abu’l-Qasim, ‘This is the most beautiful garden in the world.’ With its tall trees, its wealth of flowers, and its fountains, it lies like a peerless gem surrounded by two limpid streams of water just as it is described in the Qur’án; and the atmosphere which pervades it is so fraught with sacred memories, with divine significance, with heavenly-peace and calm that one no longer marvels to hear of the traveller who, passing one day before its gates, paused and gazing in saw Bahá’u’lláh seated beneath the shade of the mulberry tree, ‘that canopy not made with hands,’ and remembering the prophecy in the Qur’án, he recognized his Lord and hastened to prostrate himself at His feet. — Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 4, p. 29

The zeal and devotion of the gardeners who tended the plants and laboured day and night to make the Garden of Ridván a place of beauty for Bahá’u’lláh to enjoy, was no less striking. The Garden of Ridván was situated on a very small island. The little river, which emptied into the sea, divided itself into two streams surrounding that small area of land. In the time of Bahá’u’lláh the garden was laid out in flower-beds and there were many ornamental shrubs and fruit trees. There was a splashing fountain from which water was fed to all parts of the garden. As it flowed, it came rippling down in a broad stream over a stone platform under two large mulberry trees. The stream which flowed by the island was about fourteen to fifteen feet wide and three feet deep; fish were darting about it in abundance. It was fringed with weeping willows, and the fragrance of jasmine and orange blossoms filled the air. Most of these features are preserved today, except that there is no water circling the garden, for the streams have been diverted in recent times.

Whenever Bahá’u’lláh visited the Garden of Ridván it was a joyous occasion not only for Himself but for the Master and all the friends. The atmosphere in this oasis of beauty brought some relaxation to Bahá’u’lláh as He sat on a rectangular bench placed in the shade of the two large mulberry trees. Many believers attained His presence there, and they too sat on similar benches. Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 4, p. 12

I visited the Ridván Garden outside of `Akká, Israel back in 1973. This is a preliminary sketch of one tree in the garden whose movement and beauty captivated me.
Image (C)Copyright by Cary Enoch Reinstein

This is one of the variations that I developed from the preliminary version.
Image (C)Copyright by Cary Enoch Reinstein

I collected a few passages from the Bahá’í Writings that mention trees and uploaded them here: Trees.

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