There is a tree in a neighborhood near where I used to work. It is a very large, old tree; tall with a gnarled, thick trunk. Its limbs are long and winding and as thick as the trunks of most trees. And on these limbs are scars where old branches had been. There are old carvings of initials encircled by hearts. Further up is a limb with an old chain sprouting out of it. The chain, once part of a swing, is now part of the tree and the children who once laughed and swung in its shade are now adults with children of their own. Near the top of the tree are traces of an old lightening strike and I could see where the top of the tree once died and one of the upper limbs took its place.
This may sound strange, but whenever I was under a lot of stress or was dealing with a problem at work I would take a break from what I was doing and walk over to this tree and I would instantly find comfort and calm. Something about this tree put all of my problems and worries in perspective for me. This tree actually spoke to me, not in words, but in a way that nature speaks, through God. This tree had originally grown in a forest surrounded by other trees. It had suffered and barely survived when the neighborhood was built. But from that neighborhood had come children who had played in its limbs, and lovers who had spread a blanket near by in its shade. And as the years passed it had survived hurricanes and thunderstorms and lightening strikes. Old limbs were replaced with new, the neighborhood was replaced with condos. A new tire swing was now hanging by a rope on one of its larger limbs. And now I, standing beneath it, was part of its story and it was part of mine.
After these trips to the tree, my problems did not seem so large or insurmountable. I had learned that the problems of work were but one limb of my life; and if I stepped back just a little I could see the totality of my life. I could see the limbs of the people I loved; the limbs where childeren played; the limbs of home; the limbs of faith; the limbs that had survived the hurricanes and lightening strikes of the past. And I was filled with a sense of purpose and hope.
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