Frabjous Times

The stubborn tree

Across the street from work a strip mall went up a couple of years ago and on the service road behind it they planted a row of maples. All through the winter I would drive down this road on my way in to the office and see this straight little line of identical leafless saplings, until one day I noticed that the one tree positioned across from the truck access had a sharp kink in its trunk halfway up, as if when someone had taken a wide turn they had given the thing a hard knock. The bark was mostly intact, but every gardener knows that the most fragile part of a young plant is the stem between roots and foliage. No grounds crew came to bandage up the break or to attach support wires to help hold the thing up. As spring came on the other trees up and down the road started leafing out, but the injured tree just bent over and lost its top entirely.
Now, months later, after a fickle summer weather-wise, the trees are sporting light green up high, except for the one. But then I noticed a shoot coming out of the cut stump of the broken tree and within a week there was a dense cluster of leaves reaching up, a dark green several shades more intense than those of its counterparts.
When I look at this tree, I see a defiance of misfortune, a sign that even after a battering, after being given up for dead for long months, after suffering a catastrophe on account of a calamitous situation imposed on it from outside, life still struggles up to stick a finger in the eye of the world that abused it, refusing with every last bit of strength to stand there and take it passively. It is saying that although you strike me at my weakest point, snapping me in two, you with your stratagems and agendas, it is not up to you whether I flourish or fade. That tree may yet find the wherewithal to become stronger than all the rest. And if not, if next winter brings some other calamity, or the summer after some fatal misery, so that this tree does die and give up its atoms to the earth and the air, then we can still say that this vigorous young mass of green was a glory while it was.
I want to be that tree.
Originally published: 2003/09/19 06:59:02