These are photos of a tree that I used to walk/run by at least once a week on my morning run/walk. The second photo is actually a close-up of the first. Now, from a distance, this tree looks kind of like a great big giant (like 12-14 feet tall) bush, and for several months, that's what I thought it was. Then one day, I got a little closer, and I realized that it was in fact not a bush at all, but a tree. To be more specific, it was a tree that had suffered some incredible trauma (I'm guessing it was struck by lightening), trauma that had caused its trunk to crack nearly in two.
I would have thought that the kind of trauma that this tree would have experienced would have done it in, but I'd be wrong. The tree continued to live, and even thrive, in spite of the difficulty associated with this injury.
After seeing this tree so often during that time period, I began to take a little bit from what I imagined its experience to be and apply it to my own life. Now, Alice in Wonderland and Anne of Green Gables notwithstanding, I'm not one who believes that trees think or feel or anything along those lines. But, for purposes of my thoughts, I imagined how the tree might have felt when it was struck by lightening. I imagined that it had probably been growing quite tall, and had some big plans for its future. Perhaps it wanted to be the tallest tree in the area. Perhaps it wanted to provide shade for people as they ate picnic lunches. Perhaps it wanted to provide really tall branches, where birds could build their nests and keep their little ones safe from predators. Or, perhaps it just wanted to be absolutely beautiful and to be seen from miles around.
Well, if it did have any of those plans, they were completely derailed when its trunk was damaged so violently. I would think that as that happened, the tree must have become very very discouraged. Add that discouragement to the pain that the damage must have caused, and I'm surprised that the tree survived.
But, it did. It not only survived, but it thrived. You can't really tell from the picture, but the fact is, that tree is huge! It's huge and it's absolutely beautiful. It was one of the first things I noticed about my surroundings when I moved to its neighborhood, and even now, when I'm back on that side of the valley, I'll often plan my route so that I can drive past it. That tree took tragedy and turned it into triumph. That tree took a bad situation, and turned it into something good. It turned itself into something that taught me a lesson that I hope I never forget.
I know some people who remind me of my tree. I don't think I'll write too many details about them, because many of them read this blog, and if I got into too many specifics, I'm sure it would embarrass them, and I don't want to do that. But there are people in my circle of friends, people in my family, and people in my world at large who bear an uncanny resemblance to the best things about my tree.
As for me, when I was growing up, I made some plans for what my life would be like in the future. For some of those plans, I am right on track. Others I've abandoned, deciding at some point along the way that they weren't things that I really wanted after all. Still others I've sacrificed because my decisions have made it unlikely that these things will turn out as I had wanted. But there are still a few other plans that I made that are probably not going to turn out as I hoped, for reasons that are completely out of my control.
And that's okay. Because just like those people, I can be like my tree too. I can take my disappointments and set-backs and waylaid plans and I can work around them. Maybe I can't be or have or experience all that I had originally wanted to be or have or experience. But the fact is, I can be and have and experience an awful lot. And, I can take all that I have and all that I'm given, and I can make something beautiful and lovely and helpful.
Just like my tree.
(p.s. For those of you who are trying to speculate about what my mysterious unfulfilled plans are, and why I chose to write about this today, save your energy, because there is nothing to figure out. Honestly, I just happened to stumble on these pictures as I was looking for some random ones, and so I decided to write about the tree. That's the absolute truth. There has been no recent tragedy in my life, there's been nothing that I've needed to process through, there's been nothing out of the ordinary. Trust me. This is just another random post. Next week I'll probably write about how I've learned life lessons from the electrical outlet in my kitchen. Won't THAT be interesting?)