I grew up playing amongst the trees in the woods behind my home. I captured frogs and toads and salamanders, elbow deep in the muck of the small swamp in the middle of our forest. It felt natural to walk under these trees, tall and towering over my little self. I danced in the cool of their shade because I knew I was safe under the mass of foliage. The sheer number of trees provided an expansive shelter, my home away from home.
But yet, whenever we drove into town, to church or to school, I was drawn to those fields we passed in which a lone tree stood, firm and spreading in the center of the flat space. There was usually just one tree and although the farmland engulfed everything around it, the tree was often strong and substantial in size.
The lone tree represented independence to me and I was mesmerized by it. I imagined myself like that tree, unique and determined, not because I had been abused or raised in a broken family, but because I believed that independence was a beautiful quality. I longed to hike to each lone tree that I saw; to explore the cornrows, tromp through the beans or brush aside the wheat. I never consciously thought about what I would do when I arrived at the tree, but I knew I wanted to go there and be close to that survivor.
I wondered why the tree remained; why that farmer and every farmer before him saved that particular tree but felled the rest. The tree had to possess some admirable quality to survive.
How old was it? How tall was it when the furrows were dug? What purpose did it offer?
It had to be a tribute to the land, I thought; a monument to what came before and a way to measure the steps from that moment forward.
Or it was a place left intact so the farmer would always have shade in which to rest- abiding by God’s example when he formed the stars and the waters; when he breathed into existence plants, animals and mankind, then rested.
But then I was reminded; the strength I witnessed wasn’t solely a result of the tree’s work, it’s’ dedication to the land or its’ own will to survive. It didn’t possess rare or noteworthy skills unique to this particular tree. It was the farmer who saw value in it and through his mercy allowed it to flourish. The strength of the tree was a testament to the one who gave it value. The tree was its’ treeish self and it thrived in the hands of the merciful farmer.
I’m sure there were years where the rains didn’t come and the tree had to plunge its’ roots deeper into the earth for sustenance. There may have been years that nothing happened and time seemed to stand still in isolating loneliness. As the farmer worked the surrounding land, the tree became stronger, taller, farther-reaching.
It’s job was to grow where it was planted and be its treeish self.
Maybe that’s really why I was drawn to the tree. I wanted to know I was cared for and in that knowledge have the strength to flourish in my own unique way.