There are multiple trees in my back yard. Each of them has a story:
1. MAPLE TREE
The beautiful maple tree—an Autumn Blaze that sits squarely at the mid-point of our back yard property line allowing for site-lines from all of our backyard windows. My parents gave me this tree for my birthday 12 years ago when Heidi and I first moved into our place. We’ve watched it take a long time to grow up (it’s very wet where we planted it and we wonder if its growth was stunted in its early years).
Now 35 feet high with its leaves glistening majestically in the autumn sun—this tree is true to its name. My dad loves trees and always makes a point to check on it when he comes to visit. It’s certainly a special tree for me.
2. BLUE SPRUCE
Then there’s the blue spruce in the back corner of our property. I transplanted this tree when it was about 5 feet tall, from the front yard to the back yard. Although, it did have a quick couple years of speedy growth, it has recently shown signs of possibly not making it. From year to year, I do wonder if this will be its last. The winters have been especially rough on it and I have had to rope it to our back fence to keep it upright. There are multiple “holes” in the branches areas due to broken limbs over the years.
But I love the big blue spruce trees that I notice driving around Abbotsford, and I dream about one day seeing this tree “make it” to this status.
3. WILLOW TREE
Three years ago, a neighbour from down the road told us that we could have a willow tree that was dying in their back yard. We said sure, and before long, we were throwing it in the back of his truck to transplant it in our back yard. It was a tiny-by Weeping Willow standards-and it was hard to picture where it should go in our yard. I chose the wettest spot in terms of our yard—a place where a lot of standing water gathers in the winter. Weeping Willows have shallow root systems that suck up water well.
Three years later, and the tree (like many willows) has grown at an incredible pace. It has also grown well into our neighbour’s backyard…so that’s not being a good neighbour. Although this neighbour recently told me that it has solved his drainage issues in his yard…so that’s good.
I grew up climbing in two massive (at least from what I remember) Weeping Willows in the back yard of my childhood home. I remember the tree forts my dad built for us, and the shade that this willow provided and also all of the debris that we would complain about from the nasty Ontario winter storms. Great memories for sure. I look forward to continuing to nurture this tree into full growth.
4. BUTTERFLY BUSHES
Butterfly bushes (not quite a tree I know)—we have two butterfly bushes in our back yard. Heidi bought one when we first moved to our home and the second—a free seeder that just popped up one day and we let it grow into a beautiful backyard bush (don’t google butterfly bushes and invasive species).
The first bush is situated right outside our dinner table window. We see it every day. In it, we see birds come and go during every season and we especially love the hummingbirds zooming in for the nectar of the first blooms in early spring. This bush has blown down twice from storms, we now have it propped up by the broken down branches. We work hard to keep it alive as it has seen much and provided much—we love it.
I could actually go on and on…because there are many more trees that have a story…the cedars that keep growing despite others dying around them, the Rose of Sharon surrounding our back porch….
More than shelter and beauty
Recently, I listened to a podcast lecture from someone who had remarked that any goodness in this world has endured adversity*. He specifically related his talk to God’s plans requiring suffering—and he used a tree metaphor that stuck with me. It’s true, trees endure many hardships. A lot of them don’t even make it, but take a look at their beauty and goodness, especially as they mature into what they are meant to be.
I think of my Autumn Blaze that Heidi and I thought we may have planted in the wrong place. When we looked over the fences at our neighbours’ maple trees…we wondered why ours wasn’t growing at the pace of theirs’ (yes, my competitive nature can be a problem), and yet when we look at the tree today—especially in its radiant fall glory—we are reminded of the beauty of God’s good and amazing creation.
I love trees. They endure the challenges that nature throws at them in stride, they take on the many challenges that humans sometimes present to them and they provide shelter in the storm. Trees are an oasis to other wildlife in any season, beauty to the onlooker, they release oxygen into the air, shade in the heat of the summer, they can provide fruits and flowers…okay, I’ll stop now.
I do know the challenges they also present—leaves, leaves and more leaves to rake up, gutter clean-up in the fall and winter, root damage to foundations that are built too close.
Into full bloom
We are entering a new calendar year. The new year often causes us to pause and take pulse of our lives.…mostly in the context of what we want to do, accomplish, and/or pursue. Rarely do we hope for adversity or suffering, even though we recognize (but possibly don’t fully understand) that it’s a part of God’s design for his people and His creation to go through some growing pains in order to come into full bloom.
As the book of Ecclesiastes wisely lays out, there is a time for everything. So, whatever the year presents for us, may we be like trees; enduring the hardships of nature, humans and other elements and yet provide goodness to those around it—whether it is seen, felt, or appreciated.
Happy New Year!
*The lecture was from Calvin College’s January Series—an award winning speaker series that I highly recommend.