The inspiration for The Tree lives in a dream. I suppose that sounds epic, right? Calm yourself—I wouldn’t call the dream epic, although you may or may not agree that there was something vaguely special about it.
I was flying. Not in a plane, mind you. Just me and the pale blue sky, and the air around me motionless, as if holding its breath (in hindsight, I think it was). I was flying over a rugged mountain range. Below me, I spied a village, nestled among the snowy peaks; as I descended toward it, I realized there was a stone wall enclosing the cottages. And planted in an alcove in the wall was a tree, only a little taller than myself—nothing epic, much like the dream itself. Its fruit resembled peaches. (I will tell you a secret: the book was named The Peach Tree for a few years before I decided to go with something nonspecific and perhaps a bit classier.) I landed there in the alcove, pausing to take in the village. It was almost surreal in its silence, in its utter emptiness. I saw not a soul, not even a misty face at the window. A thread of disquiet wound itself around me as I reached to pick a fruit. It was soft on my palms, and large enough that both hands were required to hold it. When I bit into it, two things happened: I decided it was far too watery to be delicious—and from the cottages came flooding the villagers, freed from hiding by my appetite. Hearing their voices raised in alarm, I knew I had done something wrong. I dropped the fruit and flew up, up, up before they could nab me and do Heaven-knows-what to me.
This dream was enough to set my wheels turning; the next morning I sat down to begin writing a story.
Funny thing is, the biggest bump in the road did not come in the early stages when I was still discovering my style, but only this past spring (2014). Only days before sending the PDF off to be printed by Staples and distributed to reviewers, I stumbled across a hole that forced me to delve in and edit parts I had thought I was through with, never to touch again.
I’ve loved and hated this book. I hated it then.
I spent many a meal in April with my head in my hands, my eyes literally burning with the mental power I was calling upon to find the answer—even as I knew it could not be me but God who must fill the hole. I cried out to Him—inwardly and outwardly. I wanted to know why, after every other hole He had filled, why was He abandoning me now? I didn’t sleep much; my journal was steadily filling with nonsensical notes. I continued to interrupt my dad during his blog-writing to ask his advice. He offered glimpses of hope—I grabbed them, scrawled some more in my journal, spilled a few more tears . . . and finally realized that I was that artist who cannot stop herself from overworking her painting. In the end, what is left but mud? I quieted myself. And the dust settled.
I had fried my eyes for nothing, really. I had been trying to tie all the strings together, and when I paused to take a breath, God said, “No, tie these two together. Good. Now tie these two together. Good. Step back. You see? Your shoes are tied now—but not tied together. You can walk. This story can and will walk.”
Some beautiful fruit came from that experience—a twist in the plot, as well as my fortified trust in God’s ways. I’m telling you now: I know who wrote The Tree. It wasn’t me. I pray that, by the time you close the covers on the book, you will wholeheartedly agree.