Three trees

2009 April 5
by Don Hammack

At a retreat this morning, we were sent outside to examine Mother Nature. It was a beautiful morning, the only distraction being the Thunder on the Bay air show at Keesler. (Pretty good distraction, but it’s easy to let fade into the background if you’re concentrating on other things.) We were to come back and talk about what we’d seen outside, the creation around us. After I became a reporter, I discovered I really enjoyed seeing and describing scenes, trying to distill some event into component parts or details that shed some brighter light on the big picture.

The land we were turned loose on would best be described as lightly cleared. The undergrowth had been thinned, but not eliminated. Last year’s leaves were still around, but you weren’t wading through waist-high grass. I’d been told that a past group had encountered deer in that area, and I could see signs of larger wildlife around: footprints, drag marks, dug-up patches where there’d been some rooting around going on.

But I found my attention being drawn to the trees. Not the upright trees, but three others in particular. The first one I noticed had been blown to an angle off vertical, but it still appeared to be thriving. The leaves were green, the branches full of them. I walked to the trunk and gave it a push; there seemed to be some give, but it didn’t seem to be in danger of toppling. I thought it a good reminder that we all get knocked around from time to time, pushed off balance or tilted further from our goals. That piece of nature proves the best reaction is to regrow your roots and get on with living.

The second one hadn’t fared as well. It was a spindly sapling that was dead. There wasn’t much to it other than a tall trunk, 15 feet or so and about 4 or 5 inches around. Not very inspiring, huh? A dead tree? Well, this one was leaning at an angle, too, being held up by the branches of another tree, bending and pushing aside its small limbs and branches. And growing up the dead trunk were a tangle of vines. We’re all living our lives, doing our works, and it affects other things around us now and when we’re gone. It might be family or friends, spiritual or material, wasteful or productive. That’s us pushing those branches. We also create something, a legacy or body of works, that’s built on, some way, some how, in ways you know as certain as the mouse rests under your hand and in ways as mysterious as hardcore nuclear reactor physics. (An instructor once started off a new topic in school saying, “We’re going to talk about this, and you need to know the ramifications of this stuff, but you can fit all the people who actual understand it all in a Yugo.” Yugos were still “big” then. See, he made an impact I’m sure he’d never imagine.) That body of work can let other things grow from it.

The third tree was as far from vertical as you can get. It was a dead tree, not the biggest in the woods but larger than the second. The branches were all gone. It wasn’t attached to any root structure. In fact, the base of the trunk, where the roots would have fed into, was being broken down by bugs and decomposition. Nature was recycling itself. That tree was being taken back to its core components, having the nutrients it had assembled in its lifespan returned for use by something else. It’s up to us to decide what we’re soaking up to build ourselves. We’ll all get recycled some day, and somebody might take a look at our lives and see a good example they want to follow. Those can be our nutrients going back into the world after we’re done.

One Response leave one →
  1. 2009 April 5
    Calvin Coleman permalink

    Can I get an “amen”? :-) .
    Something to think about this morning. Thanks, Don.

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