The tree was deader than dead…no life whatsoever. A big tree. Probably 80 feet high. Still standing…but only the trunk with a few limbs…dead, dead, dead. Right there. Along the Hoh River just south of Forks, Washington.
Okay. Nothing unusual about dead trees. Most frequently they finally crumble to the earth, blending with time, ashes to ashes, wood to sawdust, no longer standing. No longer breaking out in color and branches made beautiful with the greenness of spring, the vitality of sipping water from the earth. The good life of being by a river. But now. No more.
That is the first glance.
And then my guide, Tom, pointed out something. Truth is I didn’t see. I wasn’t looking for it on one hand. But the surprise of it was also in play. “Mark? Look at the top of the dead tree. What do you see?”
I looked. I saw. I was amazed. No longer was death the theme, no longer the pushing reality of contrast to all the trees surrounding the dead trunk, standing vertical to the earth, but horizontal in image.
On the top. Was a new tree! A tree that had somehow grown off the top of the dead tree. Incredible to me…what a picture…what a truth…what a reality. Dead did not rule, did not control, did not end, did not have the last word. Rather, life emerged, sprouted, and ruled the day. At least in my mind. It is the “nurse log” giving birth to a new tree, to new life.
When I saw that an image came to me. It first imaged lots of people I know…people who have lost hope, people who have lost energy, people who believe they don’t add up to much and in the new day it will be less, people who have lost their way, people whose self-image is like the trunk of that tree. I think of people whose attitude is tilting toward failure…and least in their expectation. It’s the voice of the lady at the grocery store who answered when the clerk hoped she would have a good day, “I don’t plan on it.”
My question…when I look in the mirror…but also look around me. Can newness spring forth? Can newness sprout? What about you? I would hope.
A dead tree. A burgeoning green tree, exuding life, rooted in the dead tree but not controlled by it.
Okay. It can remain a metaphor. It can remain simply a tree along the Ho River. Or. It can be the imaging some of you may need to reach deeper and higher for your life to take on more life…in the new day.
For honestly? It is as much as anything a choice. To this I hope has the biblical root of choosing life and not death, choosing vitality and not resignation, choosing to give a damn…and tell hell to get away.
Here’s the story…and I’m sticking to it.