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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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In the Wangerin 'kinder-garten'

Planted for grandchildren, trees bear life and love into the future

Since moving here in 1991, I’ve planted an average of 50 trees a spring. Not this spring. This spring I stand and breathe and enjoy the natural transitions of the season. Lilacs are now adding their reliable, well-clothed, Victorian scent to the chorus. Every third or second year our hawthorn trees troll the blind in the lower airways with a perfume like that of the European linden, neither species producing a notable—or even a truly visible—blossom.

Chris Ocken <BR><BR>Cousins Noah, 7,
Cousins Noah, 7, and Cassindra, 6 (last names withheld for privacy), gaze up at the willow tree with their grandfather, Walt Wangerin, who planted it to mark the girl’s birth, as he did with other trees for every grandchild.
Wild strawberries are opening small, five-petal flowers among the grasses. Five petals have the dogwood. Five wounds the Christ, whence comes the blood that waters and washes us, and then from his mouth the breathing wind that tears our own blood-red petals away.

In the back field that we call the “kinder-garten,” my wife Thanne and I have planted a particular tree for each of our grandchildren. When they visit—especially when all seven are here—I’ve made it a custom to pull them in a large wagon behind the tractor, to call out the name of each tree as we pass it.

“Noah, look. There! There is your red maple.” Older than any other tree in the children’s garden. First born, first purchased.


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November issue

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