I have this scenario in my mind about the day God created trees. It goes like this: as each new kind of tree occurred to Him, He spoke it into existence, then gazed into its heart and whispered, “Grow leaves and make seeds, and the earth will be ever covered with your beauty and goodness.” And the trees took His words seriously and were determined to always, no matter what happened, to make their leaves and produce their seeds and cover the earth with beauty and goodness.
It’s early spring, and the trees have begun budding in my neighborhood. A beautiful creation, a tree. And with all those leaves, you get tons of oxygen produced by something that has quite a small footprint. For the same amount of floor space as a square foot of grass, you get gazillions of leaves that emit lots more oxygen than that little patch of grass ever could. So a tree is a very efficient organism. A tree knows its job, and it does its job. Grow leaves and make seeds.
I used to love only the perfect trees. Trees whose limbs had not been butchered to make way for power lines, or broken from their own weight when heavy with nuts, or struck by lightning. I loved the symmetry of balanced branches – how each limb arched at just the correct angle for optimal sunshine to reach all the surfaces, so that photosynthesis was maximized. A thing of beauty to behold, indeed.
Back when I loved only the perfect trees, I was a bit like a perfect tree myself. I was young and, while I wasn’t Miss-America beautiful, I was decent-looking. My height and my girth were appropriately matched. I looked nice when I dressed up. I didn’t scare little children when they saw me, and stray cats didn’t run away in fear when I approached.
Then life happened, and as my body began to show signs of the battles I’d fought and the trials I’d endured, I softened a bit toward those other trees – the ones who’d been gouged out by storms or men with chain saws. The ones that were no longer exactly symmetrical.
You know what I noticed about those “ugly” trees? No matter how battered and tattered they got, they kept right on doing their job. Missing a major limb? Grow leaves and make seeds. Been pruned almost into oblivion by a maniac who means well? Grow leaves and make seeds. Missing all your limbs? Send up little shoots from the roots and grow leaves and make seeds. Toppled in your prime? Drop your seeds on the ground so that they can grow leaves and make seeds.
There’s a tree I know on a little back road in Georgia that is my hero. I don’t know how long he’s been standing there at the edge of a field, but to look at him in winter, you’d think he was nothing but a dead tree trunk ready to fall over. Every one of his limbs is gone; he has just little knotty stubs where they were. But in the spring, you know what he does? He grows leaves and makes seeds. As long as he can do that, he will do that. He has a job to do, and he is doing it.
I began to respect those trees. A lot. They show us what we ought to do when life cuts us down and beats us up and takes things away from us. We, like the trees, ought to keep doing the job we were given. I am of the opinion that each of us was put here for a purpose, and we are happiest and most fulfilled when we are living our purpose.
If a tree can keep going in the face of insurmountable odds, who am I to give up and quit?