The Legend of the Balm of Gilead Tree

His name was Thomas Redway. He headed west from Connecticut with his family, driving a team of oxen and herding a flock of sheep with a staff cut from a tree.

Stories from early settlers say that when he reached what is now the southwestern part of Onondaga County in the State of New York, he found a hillside area above a small wooded lake.  He said, “Here will be my home” and stuck the staff into the ground.

Family history says Thomas settled on the site in 1806 and built a one-room log cabin where he lived with his family. The cabin was eventually replaced with a larger house, and the house that sits on the property today was built sometime around 1867.

The staff that he stuck in the ground sprouted, sending out roots and leaves, growing for 173 years. I don’t know how big it was when it finally fell, but in 1937 it measured 23 feet in circumference waist high, and 27 feet just above the ground.

It stood well over the farmhouse that my dad grew up in, fifth generation to live on Thomas Redway’s homestead.

My family has numerous photos going back three generations of Thomas’s descendants standing in front of the enormous tree. The photos below are of my grandmother taken around 1937, when a Syracuse Newspaper published a story about the tree.

BALM OF GILEAD TREE IN PAPER b

BALM OF GILEAD IN PAPER 3

BALM OF GILEAD TREE

Here are pictures of the tree towering over the house.

BALM OF GILEAD IN PAPER 3

BALM OF GILEAD 2

The tree finally fell September 14, 1979, taking a part of my family history with it.

BALM OF GILEAD IN ROAD SEPT. 14, 1979 D

My brother, my dad and my son

BALM OF GILEAD IN ROAD SEPT. 14, 1979 A

BALM OF GILEAD IN ROAD SEPT. 14, 1979 G

© Drusilla Mott and https://drusillamott.wordpress.com, 2014

TEA BAGS AND FAITH LESSONS – A Short Story

I stared out the window as the tea kettle began to steam, lost in thoughts of past tea times.  It was on afternoons such as this that made the emptiness of my heart pulse with an ache born of loss and emptiness.

Many had been the days when the three of us would settle at the scarred farmhouse table with a steaming pot of tea and whatever baked goods Gramma had whipped up for our time together.  Three generations of Olcott women, sharing hopes and dreams over spicy ginger snaps, dark molasses cookies or scones.

Many were the lessons learned as I sat with my mother and grandmother.  Learning the proper way to brew a pot of tea, learning the lessons of being a Godly wife and mother.

I remembered the day I had first been invited to join the gathering, growing the number to the three of us.  I had been just a child, secretly thrilled with the tiny cup and saucer that had been set in front of me.  I had watched in awe as the cup was filled half full of steaming tea, then watched as a spoon of sugar and a liberal amount of milk had been added.

I smiled slightly as I relived the moment of that first sip, the unimaginable pleasure of being allowed to share in such an adult ritual.  All these years later, no other cup of tea ever equaled the taste perfection of that first cup.

The tiny hiss of sound steadily grew until it reached an ear-piercing whistle.  I reached out and turned the knob to shut off the burner.   As I lifted the kettle to pour the water into the pot, tears stung the backs of my eyes, even as I smiled mistily.

When I had filled the pot and set the kettle back on the stove, I lifted the tiny ceramic lid and settled it back on the pot, closing in the scent and heat.  Lifting the tray, I carried it across the large kitchen and set it on the same old table that had taken up the center of the room for generations.

Even as I settled into my customary chair across from my mother, the emptiness of Gramma’s chair pulled the tears from my eyes to run down my cheeks.  Swiping my hand across my face, I swallowed and lifted the pot to fill the three cups that rested in their matching saucers.

An indrawn gasp filled the kitchen as I looked at the tiny bits of tea which swirled in the cups.

“Oh, no!”

I lifted the bags out of the pot, shaking my head at the large hole in one of them.  I closed my eyes in exasperation, then looked across at my mother.

“Don’t worry about it,”  she told me.  “Just get the strainer.”

I did as I was bid, and poured the tea from the cups back into the pot before using the strainer to catch the tiny bits of tea leaves as I refilled the cups.  As I did so, I was reminded of one of the most prominent lessons that I had learned during our afternoon tea times.

I glanced at the newcomer to the gatherings and studied the young face.  Love swelled in me as I met my daughter’s eyes.

“Did I ever tell you about the time great-gramma had this happen?”  I asked.  When my teenage daughter shook her head in the negative, I recounted the story.

On that afternoon so long ago, the tea bag had also been ripped.  When my grandmother had gone through the same process, she held up the tea strainer and pointed to the tea leaves that lay therein.

“Do you see these tea leaves?”  When I  had nodded, Gramma had continued.  “These tea leaves are like our lives before we accept Jesus as Savior.  They are the sin that fills us and contaminates our souls.  But when we are saved, that sin gets strained from our lives, leaving us with a clean soul and heart, just like the tea in your cup.”

My daughter smiled as she studied the tea in her cup, then grinned.  “Who would have thought that you could learn something about faith just sitting and having tea?”

*  *  *  *  *

I recently joined Pam Ford Davis’ group Tea Pot Testimony on Facebook.  In one of her posts, Pam asked what one does with a cup of tea that is full of bits of tea due to a broken tea bag.  As I thought about my answer, the idea for this story was born.  The memory of that first cup of tea is my own, shared with my mom and Gramma when I was small.

© Drusilla Mott and https://drusillamott.wordpress.com, 2012