A Lesson from the Ancients

From tall trees to young saplings our home is surround by trees. Conifers and deciduous, give gifts of flowers, fragrance and fruit. At this time of year few of the delightful benefits of trees are visible, yet they are there, waiting to leap into action as warmer days arrive.

Residing on the west side of the house is a mature white pine. It commands one’s attention with it’s majesty, beauty and sheer size. Some years back, a woman pulled onto the gravel driveway and climbed out of her car. “I was visiting next door, saw this tree and simply had to stop to talk to you.” The story goes that she, with her family had lived in our house decades earlier. Her husband had been the visionary who had planted that tree, and it was both his dream and action that resulted in a source of grace for us today. Entering the ground in the ’70s as a 5 foot tall tree, it now soared over the entire neighborhood.

A few years ago, it took quite the hit during one of our less-than-pleasant blizzards. Living in Minnesota, we have a variety of winter experiences including snow, ice and some pretty-dang-cold days. During that winter a foot of heavy, dense snow arrived. At first it was beautiful as it gripped the deep green boughs. However as the snow piled up, the weight tugged at the branches causing more and more distress to both the tree and our hearts. We went out to see what we could do. We shook branches, knocked at the snow, and nothing seemed to help. Landing wet and heavy, it soon froze into place and remained on the branches, as one-by-one they cracked, eventually decimating the southern edge of this majestic being. It was heartbreaking. This enormous and strong white pine, once the most beautiful tree in the neighborhood, turned into a broken mess by dawn. I wondered if it would be able to make a recovery.

Ancient folk of the mountains knew a secret about brokenness. From trees that have survived repeated breaking come the strongest branches. From those trees, limbs are used to create staffs employed to navigate mountains and tend livestock. Repeatedly broken branches make the very strongest staffs.

This weekend, as I was enjoying the beautiful weather, I noticed our pine is on the path to restoration. Branches are still missing of course, but sap has healed the wounds. It may never look the same, however if the ancients have anything to say about it, those limbs may be stronger than they used to be. And maybe, just maybe they will withstand the next time the weight bears down and the winds blow hard.

From one tree branch to another…


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