Because a life unexamined is lived without intention.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Last spring, we planted a tree in our front yard. In time it will add a smidgen of privacy to the porch we spend long hours upon, and who doesn't love cruising down a tree-lined avenue. (I'm secretly conspiring with a neighbor to do "midnight plantings" all along the lane...do you think anyone would mind?) While it was indeed the wrong time of year to move a tree, we forged ahead. If you plant in the fall, the tree is settled and then can rest and acclimate to new ground; in the spring, it's plunked down and immediately the world demands, "Blossoms, leaves and fruit!"
I was so proud the evening we dug out the circle in our lawn, knelt to insert the burlap wrapped ball into the ground, tenderly cut the string holding it all together....I remember the way the dirt felt under my nails as we pushed it in to surround the roots with dark loamy love. We began the summer of watering...and hoping.
I called my mum to ask about a stake. Everywhere I looked were little trees guarded by tall rigid planks of wood thrust deep into the ground. Each twiggy trunk was tied to their guards; braided cord promising safety in the storm while still seeming a bit strangulating at the same time. My mother is a horticulturist with a green arm. She can make stones grow. I was slightly taken aback when she vehemently told me no - the stakes make the trees weak.
What? I thought they were to protect the baby trees, keep them from falling in a wind. But as I listened, her words rang true...in so many ways. You see, the most important part of a tree's job upon transplant, is to grow roots. Deeply. That neat and tidy ball that you carry home from the nursery is like the fat end of a weeble wobble and it must plunge its fibrous fingers down into the earth, entwining themselves in the world beneath lest it simply be blown over when the storms arrive.
But do you know what makes the roots grow? Being shaken. Every breeze, every thunderstorm, as the tree is rattled, it reaches deeper. The only way our sapling would make it through the snowy winter ahead, was for us to let it tremble through the gusts and gales of summer. Yes, there is risk--for once in a while a tempest may snap a trunk...but rarely.
And so we watered and hoped. The August heat arrived and we watered more. The leaves dropped one by one as if plucked by October's frosty claws, and while the winter has been mild, snow draped the barren branches a time or two. I'm rather amazed that the simplest things in life truly do provide intense, innocent joy. The buds that swelled on twiggy tips were sheer delight. This early March warmth burst them open the same day the robins returned to argue with the squirrels over the neighbor's feeder. Spring has arrived.
I've spent many days on my porch, fingers wrapped around coffee or whiskey, contemplating that tree. Good days....and hard ones. While the leaves were filling out, one of my boys broke a leg. As the branches stretched in glory to the sky, my husband had a seizure and lost the ability to drive. The tempests of life do surprise us sometimes; shocking how they can arrive in a moment wrecking havoc....and then be gone. At times the devastation is minor, others it redefines the color of the sky. But every cloudburst and squall--they're making us strong enough to face the hurricane. When jobs evaporate and cars crash and children wander in treacherous lands...when money is scarce and plans disintegrate and the future is suddenly unknown. When your heart aches and tears trace the curve of your cheeks....can you feel it?