Fallen Tree on Third Fork Creek Trail
A series of unexpected happenings, fun purchases, regrets, surprise repairs, career bumps and boosts, persistent challenges, wounds that won't heal, … welcome to life!
There’s a trail by a creek within shouting distance from home, and I like to walk it frequently. It’s a tiny, little stretch of nature and a way for me to quickly recharge. I’ve seen a group of deer, squirrels (of course), an inch-and-a-half baby turtle basking in the sun, a slithering snake escaping the trail traffic, hundreds of earthworms wriggling in the rain, a heron, a duck, frogs, rabbit … all in a portion not more than a mile long and bounded by streets and buildings.
Last winter I came upon this tree, fallen to the trail’s edge, uprooted in a recent storm. Loosened by the water’s lubricating effects, the roots' grip gave way. I wondered how it would fare by the time warm currents of spring air blew in again. A fallen tree cannot survive, can it?
On a crisp stroll in early March, I noticed little branches sprouting on the side of the tree nearest the sky, reaching toward the sun’s nourishing rays. Toward the trunk of the tree, where branches did not previously exist, the growth looked brand new.
I thought (believing the tree was dying a slow death) these tender branches won’t last more than a few weeks. Each time I passed it, I noticed how they continued growing, from bud, to tiny leaf, then many little leaves. Months later, it looks like the tree is not only surviving but thriving …
Probably anyone else would pass by this tree a hundred times, giving it no further thought or attention. Not me. I tend to imagine things beyond the plainly visible surface; I reflected and started to marvel at what I was witnessing. How remarkable this is!
More closely, I could see how some roots remained intact, maybe less than a quarter, but enough to bring moisture and minerals from the sandy creek soil and combine with the sun to nurture and sustain the sprouting branches. These few roots, still connected deep in the ground are undoubtedly growing deeper still and expanding into new terrain, strengthening the tree in greater, unseen directions.
I have felt like that fallen tree at times; I know that many of you have too. Right now some of you are going through life’s inevitable setbacks; maybe it feels like you have had more than your fair share of challenges that would bring anyone to deep despair. These are miserable places to be. Miserable and overflowing with questions! But being in a fallen state does not mean it’s the end of life, although …
It is the end of life as we knew it. …
If we consider our lives' roots to be community, friends, faith, family, talents, gifts, spiritual practice and whatever else that we count as part of our network of enrichment and support, it can feel devastating to have any part of it damaged, let alone the vast majority of it wiped out in one fell swoop.
Be encouraged by this one example of nature renewing itself. We can live well, even as most of our roots have been pulled up from what we thought was solid and secure, and a part of us is left hanging in the air with nothing to cling to, drying out. We can build on what roots remain and nurture previously unknown ways of living, exploring and persisting until we discover possibilities more beautiful and unique than the old.
This fallen tree offers something no ordinary upright tree can, and that is a way for us to touch its wounded roots, witnessing the damage, but also seeing its unusual beauty up close, its freshly growing branches and tender leaves where none grew before … and by observing, draw an inspiring lesson in the way it survives a setback and endures.
It’s ok to show our wounds. What remains … who remains, to love us, to nurture us and tend to our wounds are profoundly important as we seek relief, recovery, and growth. Begin there, with these roots. Unfortunately many others may keep their distance or offer only a lip-service level of caring, but we will never grow new and healthy roots by hiding or denying woundedness. Only by showing and sharing, only then can our remaining roots grow to sustain us, and only then may we find we can truly thrive in a new way of living.