The hypnotizing sway of the aspen branches above where I lay begin transporting me back in time, to a place that felt like holy ground to me. A place where a newly married couple lined the boundaries of their property with the very trees fluttering in the gentle breeze and singing soft music to my ears even as I write.
The mountains near their home were lined with these trees. For thousands of years, sprouts pushed through the ground creating new life from the old Trembling Giant’s root system, covering more and more territory, each having its own season when their quaking leaves danced in the breeze. Atop their branches they have created, in harmony, sparkling light shows for generations. They have endured terrible storms creating a shape unique to each tree, yet they are genetically cloned. One aspen tree is a single part of an ever-growing life system stemming back to one male tree — one father to all that is being fed and nurtured then and today in the same massive forest.
Though my grandmother lived on this soil long before this day, I have an eternal connection with her, just as the tree I lay beneath has with its ancestors. If I followed many miles of connected roots, my grandmother and I would both find we too share the same father. But with her the connection is much stronger than with the thousands of others I’ve met during my life. We share the love of a man that sprouted me up from his own small family. He came from a family that stared out at that home where my great-grandparents started their grove. My grandfather sprouting from that love, my dad springing forth from his dad. I sprang forth from my father, and my son from me. Each of us on earth is eternally connected to one father, yet we are uniquely connected with those from our own trees.
A Latter-day Saint church sits on this land where my great-grandmother’s home once stood. To me, it seems as majestic as the trees that surround this valley. The building stands bold, symbolizing the fact that the very doctrine taught within its walls is what binds our family tree together.
My father once told me, as tears filled his eyes when his children where going on missions, that my great-grandmother’s patriarchal blessing stated that her children would fall away from the Church and would stay away, but that her grandchildren would come back and bring many with them. My father watched that prophesy being fulfilled, but some may have wondered how the Lord could have known that. In my mind, the best way to explain it is through analogies: Just as a fire can destroy an entire forest within days, it cannot stop the trees from sprouting back up again. Fire cannot penetrate the ground deep enough to destroy the roots firmly planted in the soil.
The connection I have with my grandmother was planted and cultivated long before I ever came to earth. The soil upon which I sow my life now was prepared from heavenly mansions above. The twinkling of the light reflecting from the treetops above warm my heart as it burns once again with the knowledge that the one Father of us all is very much aware of each of us individually: every single tree, every grove, and every forest upon this earth.
The best part of this story is there is no ending. My grandmother had her time here on this earth, as did the Quaking Aspens that used to line her property. But the roots of those trees still produce life just as the roots of her posterity produce life. Her life continues now with the Father who created us all. I have felt her unswaying love though she lives beyond the grave.
I have been transported to a time when we knew no pain or sorrow. When I felt as if the burning fire of others’ choices was about to consume my being, I felt as if I were transported to a place in time when the connection of our roots was created. It is a place that nothing of this earth can destroy or change. We are and always will be attached, intertwined with the Father; His power, His glory forever sparkling around us.
Let us plant our feet in the knowledge of the gospel, and soon we will all meet to dwell in the majestic gardens above.
“. . . A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth . . .” (D&C 128:19)
Older than the massive Sequoias or the biblical Bristlecone Pines, the oldest known aspen clone has lived more than 80,000 years on Utah’s Fishlake National Forest.
Shawna Smart is dedicated to raising and uplifting others by sharing the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. A survivor of neglect and abuse, Shawna's story of overcoming trials and trauma is an inspiration to all who hear it. She is grateful for the opportunity to share her experiences via LDS Blogs as well as on her own site, Strength in Adversity.