A Tree Called Home

By Michael Gallup

I’m not sure why everytime I think of home, I feel compelled to describe the Spanish Moss-draped oak trees. I feel the need to become rather verbose and compare the moss to trapped spirits of the men and women damned to never leave the lowcountry (I could think of worse fates). But simply put, nothing speaks of the area like the oaks. These ancient giants with their gnarly knotted elbows meandering to and fro are the epitome of the grandeur and history that so defines the lowcountry of South Carolina. They belong to a rare group of items like the mountains of Colorado and the sea, that no matter how many times you see them they still inspire awe.

As a kid they held a certain mystery for me, that if they could talk, God himself would pull up a seat to listen. Yet they also had a laziness about them. The oaks have the appearance of the rivers they surround, a fluidty that can be rather mesmerizing. When they have reached the grandfather stage of life, their limbs will rest on the ground much like a cane. But most of all, I must speak of them because they are home, as much as mom is even.

Yet, I have been cut off from that land, somewhat by choice and somewhat by force. And this saddens me because my blood has a brown tint to it thanks to those muddy rivers that these oaks line. I know worthless tidbits of history about the plantations that inhabited the land before me, but it is not my home anymore and I wonder if it ever truly was.

Even though I was born on the banks of the black river in Georgetown much like my father before me, I always felt a stranger. My great-granddad wasn’t a rebel and I’d lie straight through my teeth about the fact the my Grandfather was from Pennslyvania. If anyone ever discovered that fact, I’d quickly remind them my mom was from Arkansas. Yet I lived in a place where my friends last names matched those of the plantations and even though this heritage wasn’t always flaunted, I was always on the outside looking in.

Home is a funny place. The cliché is that it is where the heart is, but that is too vague for my sensibilities. I need a place to call home and I think that I am not alone in this quest, that one way to describe our existence is that it is a search for place, for home. The religious thing to say is that God or heaven is our homes and that is not far from the truth as I can see it.

When I think of home, I think of mom and our gardens and a tree. Is it fair to guess that those things stick out because deep in all of us is a longing for a Father, a garden and a tree; a longing for a place that though we may stare into it for eternity it will never cease to inspire awe?

Michael is a student at Denver Seminary who’s greatest accomplishment in life was marrying way up to his beautiful wife Michala, the Director of Children’s Ministry at The Neighborhood Church. Michael has a blog called a A Sprig of Hope where he shares devotional thoughts on life, short stories, poetry, prayers, and anything that grabs his short attention span. 


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11 responses to “A Tree Called Home

  1. Charity

    “worthless tidbits of history about the plantations that inhabited the land before me,”…this seemed to sting, as I reckon my ancestors were a part of the worthless tidbits.

    • mchlgallup

      Charity, I love those plantations. I dream about them. What I was insinuating was the amounts of trivia I have accumulated of South Carolina history which in my everyday life are bit worthless. The reality is that they are far from worthless especially to individuals such as yourself who they effect everyday. Sorry this comment trivialized you.

      • Georgie-ann

        I’ve never dwelled in SC, but we recently visited & took in some guided tours,…beautiful, lovely to behold,…and I now am also a proud “possesser” of many bits of (bought-and-paid-for) historical info-trivia! — so-called “irrelevant” and unnecessary to our “modern” daily lives — but they sure did bring the “past” alive in a way you could almost taste/savor,…(for better or for worse, of course,…as is always they “way it is” with the past,…we just choose to “go on from here” — as there is no other real viable alternative),…personally, I’m also kind of savoring our modern advances in plumbing, for one example, as compared to some the descriptions we were privy to,…

  2. Beautiful imagery, Michael. This seems–as it should–unfinished.

    Isn’t it ironic that those of us who are restless souls yearn for rootedness? And often those God gave rootedness, seek adventure.

    C.S. Lewis said something about this earth being like a fine, fine hotel room. Beautiful, luxurious, everything we dream of. Yet, at a certain point we just want to go home.

  3. Georgie-ann

    Love the picture!,…& I can relate to the southern wistful reminiscence. The south can surely “do that to you.” Kind of like that song, “Old Man River.” Lots of unanswered “stuff” hangs “in the air.” Up-beat is not a description that applies to the “old south,” and thankfully, but also a little mournfully so. And who can explain why and how it has such a powerful draw? Weeping willows and distant train whistles would unfailingly leave my little grandmother in sad trains of thought.

    It strikes a chord with me, as I am wont to complain about being “in exile” in the (comparatively up-beat) Northeast. But a kind of sad thing happened for me when I did finally manage a visit back to my birth home-grounds. I found that the many many formative years “away” had influenced my “apparent being” to such an extent — (picture NY assertiveness* vs. KY gentility) — that my very very sweet and darling long-lost relatives didn’t seem to perceive the KY heart (alive, living and beating within), as much as “like unto their own” as I would have hoped! I thought it was beating so hard, “how could anyone miss it?”

    My mother’s Kentucky aunts told her that she had always had “a little bit of Yankee” in her, and as much as I didn’t particularly want that description to apply to myself (in my sentimental heart), I could see that through time and exposure, I had morphed into that very same Yankee-tainted kind of person. And now I realize that I will NEVER exactly fit in ANYWHERE — the “stranger in a strange land” syndrome has become an incurable condition, earth-wise.

    But, as you say, this world really is not our home anyway, — just a temporary dwelling place and experience. We’re “just passing through.” And it is mutable enough with the passage of time, that it becomes more than a little unrecognizable to us itself. Eventually, we “age out” ourselves, becoming simply lingering reminders of an increasingly irrelevant lost day and time and place, and the world stops paying attention to us as well.

    Now, if that doesn’t get you looking forward to our REAL “home in the sky,” I don’t know what will!

    Meanwhile, God instructed me to “be a missionary in my own hometown.” Perfect advice, under the given conditions! (-:

    *(hey,…”if you can’t lick ’em, join ’em” is the rule in NY!)

  4. HOMESICK – I was born in Florida lived there till I was 17. Moved all over N.Mex. Colo Springs, GA, then Germany, England,and now the Ozarks of AR, and each time I return to Florida the large Oaks hundreds of years old with the moss hanging down seem to bring a sense of” I’m home” like I never left and I’m drawn back to a time when life was simplier, climbing these trees and pulling the moss and making a pretend bed during school recess brings me back to a place that I wonder did those places really exist- seems so many years ago. Most of those trees have been cut down, people harvest the moss for resale. Everything moves at a super fast pace. People, most transplants from other states, busy with trying to make a buck off of the land that they now claim is their homeland. Perhaps its the spirit of the Indians in times past that were robbed, killed and run off of those lands that seems somewhat haunting, the stillness and quiet, the breeze blowing the cascading moss whispering “we’re not here, we have gone on” -that is- if they could talk. Those days are gone left in the shadows of my childhood never to be returned to again, but yet there is that yearning that beacons me come back. The Spirit of God is always calling us when we get to far away from home(God). The fast noisy pace of this life its often hard to sit still and hear the “still small voice” whispering come home child, come home. These days many think or say “well, yeah I want to go to heaven but I’m not lining up for the first bus”. I don’t understand that mentality- I pray often,” Lord today would be a great day for you to come”- As pain from a broken body and heartache from the trials of life and the struggle I see my children go through and others- I seek a new home as the old one is no longer there; the spirit within seeks that home not made with hands not destroyed by mans hands- whose builder and maker is God. “Home” where I long to be only its not up to me when I get to go there- so for today at least, I will have to wait-I’ve got my passport stamped and I’m ready when its time. I can hardly wait to see MY Father whose arms and His embrace I long for, and to hear Him say “Welcome Home.”

    • mchlgallup

      Rose, we have lived in similar places, I spent about 4 years in Mammoth Spring, AR and my wife’s family is both from Mountain
      Home AR and Colorado Springs. I loved your description of the trees but also how the pace of living has caused us to become blind to the wonder they possess, just like we have become blind to the wonder our Father possesses as well. Thanks for you input.

      • Rose

        Hi Michael in case you didn’t figure it out you know me- from Williams I made your wedding cake formally called” Mrs. Rose.” lol Love you dear brother and friend.
        Love your Sprig of Hope and the new coffeehouse blogs. Great writting and thoughts God Bless

  5. Georgie-ann

    There certainly is “something” about great old oaks — very penetrating, almost speaking, to the psyche. Even the tall and straight ones,…but those SC and FL “curly” ones completely challenge and transform one’s presumed relationship to gravity, space and time — very mind-boggling, and so perhaps opening a creative door to the realms of musing thought and imagination and timeless feeling.

  6. Georgie-ann

    I’ve finished reading Wednesday’s entry, but only in the e-mail form,…it doesn’t connect to the web page version, or a way to make comments,…hopefully it will later!

  7. Lynda

    I just left that area today and I found your description so on point and well written and please ignore the sensitive ones who were offended by the “worthless tidbits of information” comment. There are bigger things in life to get upset about, abortion, gay marriages, corrupt leadership,no jobs, homelessness etc. If a family owned a plantation and had slaves they should probably remain silent and allow you to find it all worthless since they have ancestors who enslaved, beat, raped, separated families with absolutely no compassion for the depths of despair and pain they caused all while attending church and praising God. I thought you were kind to them by ignoring the obvious.

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