The Leaning Tree

I’ve been thinking a lot about trees lately, partly because my infant son, Wesley, likes to talk to them, but also because we have an uprooted crab apple tree in our front yard.  After a couple windstorms this summer, it developed quite a lean and even warranted a phone call to the power company.  Turns out the limbs were dangling dangerously close to the lower cable and phone lines NOT the higher, energized wires, so if our tree toppled completely, a neighborhood-wide power outage could still be avoided.

Nature-lovers that we are, we wanted to save the tree, but since the scorn of the neighborhood was no longer a motivating factor, our rescue attempts played second-fiddle to more pressing matters, like surviving the first few months of parenting a newborn again.

Gradually, though, gravity and a few more thunderstorms started taking its toll on the crab apple tree.  The roots bulged from the ground underneath its branches and every time I looked out my kitchen window, I had to cock my head more and more to keep up with its ever-increasing slant.

Scott attempted to jack up the tree with some supplies he bought from the hardware store, but he nearly burned out the engine of our Outback in the process.  Save a Tree, Kill a Car is not our family’s motto, so he borrowed a friend’s truck, which did the trick, and built a couple stakes from two-by-fours that he anchored into the ground to help the tree stand upright again.  Then, as a final step, we pruned some of the tree’s limbs to lighten its load.

“I think the Earth is smiling at us,” I remarked to my tree-hugging husband as we stepped back to admire our conservation efforts.

But a couple days later Scott came in the door, frustrated and frowning, and reported that another strong gust of wind cracked one of the stakes, causing the tree to return to its previous, precarious position.

So here Wesley and I sit outside, underneath one of our healthy trees, listening to the breeze and watching the sunlight split seams through its leaves, and I can’t help but smirk at the situation.

It reminds me so much of myself at times, when winds of change blow across the landscape of my life or gale forces knock me over and threaten to uproot all that I love.  Sometimes I’m tempted to think crooked is the new straight, to think I’ll never stand on my own again.  But that’s when I’m most thankful for the unbreakable “stakes” in my life, the people who hold me up, who lean into me during life’s storms, supporting and anchoring me so I won’t topple over.

And as painful as the process may be, I know some limbs in my life need to be cut off, not just trimmed a little here and a little there, I mean completely chopped off.  They weren’t serving any purpose but to bring me down anyway.

But it takes time and heaps of patience.  When we finally get this crab apple tree firmly planted again, it will need at least a full growing season to reestablish its roots.  Same goes for me.  When I go through seasons of change or suffer some storm damage, I need to be patient and allow myself time to get straightened, to repair my wounds, to grow and re-root.

Then, when that tree is standing tall and strong and beautiful again, there in the coolness and protective covering of its shade will sit a handsome little boy, gazing up in wonder with his big, brown eyes, cooing a melody to the thing he adores the most.  And, because I never gave in to gravity, I get to sing a love song back to him.

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