In my front yard is a 20-year-old silverleaf maple tree. It’s beautiful in the spring when the new buds pop through with their green and yellow spouts. It’s stunning in the fall with its blazing orange and red leaves. In the summer it creates privacy for my bedroom and shade from the intense Colorado sun.
Last year, about ¾ of the tree never produced a leaf. I had the tree guys come look at her. They did tests and some root examination, and charged me quite a lot, I might add. They left me their usual paperwork on the door saying that the tree was dying and would need to be cut down. Her roots had some kind of bug and she was dying.
Now, don’t judge me, but I cried. A lot. I just couldn’t cut her down. Guess I was a little more attached to that tree than I knew. I decided not to cut her down…yet. I just couldn’t do it. I prayed for the tree. I talked to the tree. I found that grief about many of other things in my life showed up when considering cutting down that big tree.
I live on a quiet cul-de-sac where nothing much ever happens. But, back in February, I heard some rumbling and poked my head out the front door. A bunch of guys were in the middle of the street tearing up the asphalt. My neighbor walked over and went on to explain that the sewer system had backed up into their basement the night before. (Eew!) Apparently it had been going on for a while under the street, but finally reached their house.
There was a faulty connection from her house to the city system and after 20 years, it had given out. They had to replace the connection in the middle of the street and tear up the road to do it. They dug down to the system, replaced it, and covered it with cement to keep it from happening again.
As it turns out, the repair guys had to cut out root after root to get to the broken pipes. My neighbor said, “I hope it doesn’t kill whatever tree those roots belong to”. I had a fleeting thought that maybe it was my maple. Perhaps there was sewage spilling out on her roots where rich soil should be.
As it turns out, it was my tree. The sewage had been killing her.
But, in the last three weeks (spring is very late in Colorado) my beautiful maple has little green sprouts where she had nothing the year before. Most of the tree that appeared dead, now has sparse leaves poking out. It looks a little like the guy who has had hair plugs…the leaves aren’t thick, but they’re there. Cutting out the damaged roots and keeping more sewage from leaking did the trick.
Oh the joy as my big tree shows life again. I am quite certain my other trees are feeling neglected. This one tree, which the professionals said was a lost cause, is coming back. Sure, some of the branches are dead, but I think she’s going to make it. Next week they are coming to give her some TLC and prune the dead branches. Joy upon joy!
As I sit on the front porch enjoying my delicate recovering tree, I am reminded of my own journey.
There was a season in my life when my leaves didn’t bud as expected. I didn’t show up the way I’d always shown up season after season. I couldn’t do what was expected of me. My life began to reflect the sewage that was seeping into my foundation since I was a little girl.
Not unlike my tree, sewage had been seeping into the foundation of my life. In my heart was the damage left behind by years of abuse and neglect. For years, I continued to play the roll, until I couldn’t. If I didn’t dig down, with the help of those who knew what to look for, to the broken places and do some serious repair work, my life was going to be over.
At the time I most needed care, those who should have protected me, believed me, and supported me, walked away saying, “we pretend like you’re dead”. At the time, it was shockingly painful to hear those words. Just like the professional tree guys, those who should have been the most eager to take care, were instead very willing to be done with me.
It has been, and continues to be, a long, difficult process, but there are those who understand real life is often hidden in what seems dead. That hope and vulnerability, while risky and uncertain, are well worth the wait. My counselors helped me create rich soil for my heart to grown and thrive.
My dead branches that needed pruned were often very painful as they came off one by one, but I can see now the benefit of letting go of the dead wood.
It would have been easier to cut the tree down. It is easier to end something with certainty than to hope for change and live in the unknown. It can feel too vulnerable. But, oh, what we miss in the unknown when we cut it short. I have learned through my own journey, and many like mine, we are meant to heal. We are meant to grow. We are meant to live!
I find each little leaf, each tiny bud, to be such joy.
Do I find such simple passion in my own life? My own heart? Do I see the tiniest growth as joyful, or do I beat myself up for not growing fast enough? Am I willing to wait for the healing and change or do I demand immediate results?
Am I gentle with the fragile changes? Do I see the pruning of those things no longer needed as opportunity for new growth? Do I truly understand that the deepest healing starts from the inside and might not be visible to others for a long while?
It is always advantageous to look below the surface. It is difficult to know the truth or depth of another’s heart. Watch for hope!