The Leaning Tree

Published on March 10th, 2016

In the woods behind my back yard lives a tree named Gladys.

I named her many years ago when I first noticed that she leans sideways. Crooked. One of her branches even grazes the dirt. And if you step back and take her all in at once, she might remind you of a very old woman, leaning over onto a cane.

A slightly younger and more immature Kristen used to think that Gladys was bound to uproot, fall over and die at any given moment. That perhaps the surrounding shrubs, trees and plants were just waiting for her to fall, expire and offer her decomposing remains to all other flora for nourishment.

But I’ve made an interesting observation over the past few years.

Gladys is still standing—albeit crooked—while many of the other trees have been blown over or snapped in two during hard storms and strong winds. Weeds and wildflowers have bloomed around her, died, and produced offspring that go on to bloom again. Deer effectively hide behind her sideways branches at the threat of predators and people. Rabbits multiply under her leaves, and my dog pees on her exposed roots, but she still stands, offering herself to whoever and whatever might need her protection.

It occurred to me last week while I was outside surveying the onset of spring that the tree I thought would have been the first to go has been one of the strongest pillars in my backyard woods. The leaning tree is not always the first to fall.

It seems to me that the things we think will make us sick, often don’t. The jobs we think will make us happy, often won’t. The people we sometimes think won’t amount to much surprise us. People live with chronic health conditions for a long time, while healthy individuals sometimes catch colds and die right away. I could go on, but I probably don’t need to.

The direction in which our lives appear to be going is often of NO PREDICTIVE VALUE whatsoever. We have to just trust the process and continue to add water (sweat) and dirt (work) to our little leaning trees, don’t we?

Gladys doesn’t lean sideways. That’s just the way she grows. You see, Gladys bends so that she doesn’t break. And at the rate everything else is happening, she might turn out to outlive the whole damn forest.



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