The Living Tree

Japanese Magnolia

There is a small tree in my yard that has been my favorite for years. Each season I anticipate the magenta hues and fiery red leaves that spring forth from what looks like driftwood of a tree. From the drab grey, and lifeless comes a colorful explosion of life. The irony is not lost on me. For years this tree has brought me joy. I lacked words exactly why until recently.

As I shared previously, our property (along with thousands of others) was laid waste by a hurricane. We still have not completed necessary clearing. It is a monumental task dealing with hundred year old fallen trees and towering, aged shrubbery. One has to have patience recovering from storms (pun intended) and this person struggles with that.

The morning after the hurricane, the carnage was astounding. Many gigantic trees (some 90 feet tall) were snapped in half or either uprooted with their gnarly appendages pointing out of the earth. How could the invisible have the strength to uproot towering trees and pummel down fences yet not completely destroy everything? My home was miraculously spared and we suffered only minor damage. The major damage was the yard and it made me gasp. Nature’s storms can be terrifying.

My driveway post hurricane

The morning after the storm, I saw my precious little tree nearly leveled by another that was five times wider and taller. It seemed like a metaphor for the hurricane itself. Half its root system was splayed in the air and I groaned at the sight of it. It reflected how I felt inside.

My tree after storm

In hope of salvaging our favorite tree, my husband and son used chainsaws to free it from under the other’s pressing weight. It remained almost on the ground but not completely knocked down. (More irony?) When we hired tree fellers to clear some of the unmanageable trees, they used a skidsteer to push the little tree back upright (sort of). We knew this was a futile attempt but had minuscule hope, nonetheless. With its shocked root system, we recognized it probably wouldn’t survive.

Months passed and the little, leaning tree was dormant. Was it dead? It was winter and everything was lifeless anyway. I tried to lower my expectations (of its survival amongst other things). In a few months, yellow-hued dust settled on my porch and carpenter bees started hovering about- signs of spring. Was life being breathed back into my bleak surroundings?

A few weeks later we noticed tiny buds, then full leaves. Life wasn’t over for our tilted Japanese Maple after all. Eventually, the entire tree was bathed in deep ruby and green. Against all odds, the tree survived and it’s beauty framed by my kitchen doors again. It was leaning, but it survived!

This little tree has paralleled my life. Difficult storms have come and gone. I have even been beaten down to the ground before, but my hope has remained. Skidsteers have been others who have pushed me back up and encouraged me onward. Sometimes things seemed dark and dreary but beauty and joy were to be had again. My beautiful, little tree just happened to define all that perfectly.

Spring 2021

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