How Barren Trees Invite Us to Love Simply

In our yard, the aspen tree that I was beginning to doubt was an aspen tree has redeemed itself this week, burnished in golden glory.

Its sister-trees are already bare, their branches white and slender in preparation for winter simplicity. They don’t sway with the wind any more, but every one of them extends upward with the delicate reach of a ballerina in a final pose.

When we moved into this house, I loved that every window looked out on some greenery. Green in this part of the country doesn’t last nearly as long as I’d like, and having full trees around us made me feel like I’d woken up in a vacation rental every morning.

Last week I raked the fallen leaves in our front yard into a crackling pile and invited the girls to jump in. I can still hear their delighted laughter. I’ll venture to say that no one has ever had to tell a toddler that leaves are good for rolling in.


Now that those wooden limbs are empty, the neighboring houses have come into view. Their walls and windows seem closer somehow, and light from our own house spills further into the street in the evenings.

Today I linger at the window, struck by their illustration of our lives.

Our starker seasons have always made us more aware of and more visible to the people around us too.

There have been times that we’ve had more to offer the world — more plenty, more hospitality, more grace — but didn’t, and there have been times when we were running dry on nearly every reserve, and found the room. When our abundance drops away we look across to where others dwell, and wonder more about their lives and needs. Bleak spaces make room for a braver vulnerability, a gentler generosity.

So, friends, in this hemisphere it is Autumn. As its fiery, full beauty comes down, and the world tastes the coming of a quiet chill, now seems a good time to extend the warmth of nearness.

In this house, extending warmth will mean putting some very simple acts of love into motion: writing notes, making meals, and planning ways to light even a small flame of encouragement in others’ lives for Christmas and beyond. Do you have any favorite ways that you’ve made use of limited time to remember others and love them simply? The girls and I might try to incorporate them if we can.

Outside the aspen hold up the gray pall of the sky, and remind me of the best way to love simply. Like them, our own lives have often been whittled down to the quieted posture of uplifted hands, and, like them, we find we aren’t as easily shaken in that stance. Please let me know if I can join with you in praying for something.

With wishes for a happy weekend, and for warmth to reach you in many ways,