We have a huge Ash tree in our backyard – with a sturdy trunk at least five feet in diameter and an enormous canopy of hefty branches laden with ivy green leaves. It covers both a large portion of my yard and part of my neighbors. I have seen it host a myriad of creatures over the last ten years – from ants and locusts to squirrels, tons of birds, and a possum or two.
Each winter it drops every leaf onto the yard, top of the hot tub, etc., and looks bare but still strong. And every spring the leaves pop out again, with so much growth that we have to trim it back at least a little (sometimes a lot) each year.
There was a tree just like it in my other neighbor’s yard a few years ago. They moved out and rented the house to a family that thought if they poured out the mop water onto the base of the tree after they finished cleaning, that the tree would get some much-needed moisture. Well, the cleaning fluid they used contained some ingredient (bleach perhaps?) that was toxic to trees, and within six months that 30- year old, magnificent tree was as dead as driftwood, and had to be cut down and removed.
It was heartbreaking. My children cried as they hauled the big branches and trunks away, and we burned some of the higher, smaller branches in a bonfire to pay homage to all the shade that tree had provided our now sun-blasted kitchen over the years.
When the tree man – a guy who looked and dressed very much like Crocodile Dundee – diagnosed the demise of the neighbor tree, he told me that these type of Ash trees, although fast growing, only live 40-50 years in most cases. The neighbor tree was cut down just as it was reaching it’s second childhood. My tree only has about 10-12 years left on average, as far as I can figure…
This all got me thinking how very much human lives are like that of our trees.
When given the right amount of what we need early on, we can grow rapidly and become incredibly strong, beautiful creatures that can withstand a great deal of various challenging elements, and even create, provide for, and support other life.
We may suffer damage due to a whole host of attacks over time; but have the amazing ability to heal, recover and become even stronger and more imperforate than prior to the hurtful experiences.
There may come a time, however, that we suffer a blow from which we cannot recover. And often in these cases, our demise is sharp and swift. In some cases, the casualty may be temporarily subdued, but when the toxin permeates our essential organs, to dust we must return.
Now this may all sound grim and despondent, but this thought process has acted more as a positive reminder for me.
As I have incorporated the daily practice of being grateful for the tree in my yard, I am also made aware of the need to practice mind-full gratefulness for the ‘other trees in my yard,’ as well as my own system of trunk, branches and leafs.
Each tree in my world is quite unique – from my male children who are ages 11 and 14, to my male partner who is 54, to my parents still living (ages 83 and 78), other family members, both alive and gone, a host of many dear friends, the list goes on and on…
The individual and collective experiences I have shared with each one of them over my lifetime has helped to make me the timber I am.
I live in a forest made up of trees which will grow, die and some outlive me. How I choose to share my energy, protect who I can and refute the toxins (because unlike my neighbor’s tree, I have to power to do so) is completely up to me.
Throughout my time here, will others look up to me and be grateful I am around?
Have I exhibited a resiliency that instructs and inspires?
When I die, will I leave a legacy of resources that will feed the forest for years to come?
As I look out my window at the Ash tree as I write this, I am grateful for the reminder to do my best to continue in growth to be all of these things and more.
Wishing You Many Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving.