While I love walking down to the river here, and watching the water endlessly flow, and love watching the wildflowers crane their necks around as the day passes to present themselves full on to the passing sun, I remain most enamored by the trees.
Each and every tree here has its own personality, its own story that you can see etched into the bark, the limbs, the leaves, from the Tulip Poplars and American Sycamores, and oaks that tower almost 100 feet, to their progeny just making their way up into the understory.
Some days I want to catalog and name each one. Thankfully most days I’m just content to look.
There’s one though that catches my eye every single time I walk through through its area of the woods, maybe even more these days.
It is an American Beech, a tree twisted, turned, wrapped in age-old poison ivy vine, covered in algae and lichen, rotting at the bottom:
That tree is beautiful.
That tree is a direct contrast to a message we’ve allowed to infect our thoughts, and our actions, and the way we go about living this short life we have – that somehow life is fragile.
Life, real life, is too short, and it is tough, it is triumph and tragedy both, but it is decidedly not fragile.
I am not downplaying tragedy, and the heartbreak of loved ones and idols and heroes whose life has ended before we wanted it to.
Whether the incredible forces in an earthquake, hurricanes, tornados, or the ravage of cellular processes gone completely awry in the case of cancer, to the debilitating self-punishing illness of depression, to the incredible forces involved in accidents, war, and weapons. To even our own prisons we build out of pain and fear. Those things that bring an end or a pause to each of our lives are the most powerful things nature – and we ourselves – can throw at us.
Because the lesson of that tree is that life, real life, adapts, twists, turns, fights, it demands to be lived.
Because out of that twisted, broken, American Beech comes one of the most beautiful canopies in all of the woods:
American Beech trees can live over 300 years. I’m not sure how long this one will be here, its life, like ours, has no guarantee.
But that tree is a reminder that life is beautiful, and powerful, and is an amazingly adaptive journey.
That tree reminds me that Life is not tenuous. It is tenacious. And our lives, lived, should be the same.