Let’s Make Like a Tree and Branch Out

I am blessed in a lot of different ways.

One of my favorite blessings right now that I try to take advantage of daily, weather permitting, is the beautiful park that I live not even a block away from. It has a large field, a big playground where awesome parents take their kids to expand their horizons beyond their iPads (big fan of that approach), and a large, beautiful lake surrounded by trees as well as a dog park that’s nearly always filled with cute wagging tails.

It’s pretty awesome.

And I do live in paradise (Florida) so the weather “permits” at some point in the day nearly every day. I like to explore this area in the morning mostly, because starting my day off in nature couldn’t be anymore of a perfect way to start it in my book. Today was too beautiful to not be one of those days! So I took a little stroll before my daily prayer and journaling. And as I was walking, I noticed a tree that I suddenly felt drawn to taking a moment to sit under, and so I veered off of my pathway to set myself up in a shaded area behind it. It had beautiful dangling limbs that blew so beautifully in the breeze, the morning sun was shining behind it, its rays peering through seemingly strategically-placed gaps between the limbs and leaves, and the water in the lake behind the tree had a steady flow of ripples throughout, consistent with the gentle breeze gliding on top of it. It was just inspiring and after only a moment, there was no question as to why I felt drawn to be there.

As I took a closer look at this majestic tree, I realized that it had missing limbs. Some seemed to have been broken off and some must have been trimmed. I thought about what this tree must have gone through in order to lose those limbs. I thought about how old the tree must be and the life it’s lived- the things it has seen and experienced. It’s easy to miss the significance of the life of a tree because as we pass by it, we see that it’s grounded and hasn’t moved from it’s place since yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that… it hasn’t seen the world…. right?

Wrong.

You see, the world happens all around the tree. Animals climb, play, live, and build families in and around the tree, year after year. It experiences seasons more than any of us do because it remains out there to brave the cold in the winter, losing its leaves and its luster along the way, and springing back to life in the spring to soak up the hot, energizing sun rays in the summertime. It has visitors of all walks of life, through all ages. Some are young children who, having a higher sensitivity in life, marvel at the wonders of the tree and how it grows, and they climb along the limbs in order to explore and experience it. Some are young couples who feel a sense of inspiration in being in nature and have felt drawn to that tree to spend a few sacred moments of their journey in life together, while others choose to spend their loneliest of days among trees like this where they contemplate their life paths and dream about their future. And some are people who are older in their years and can related to the tree and all of the rings within its trunk.

The tree has also had visitors that have caused pain and destruction amongst its years… landscapers have trimmed its limbs in order to maintain an aesthetic appeal to the people and nature has broken its limbs in the wake of its wrathful storms. People who have lost touch with the beauty and appreciation of nature have carved into its bark and careless bystanders have littered trash disrespectfully along its supple roots.

What I came to realize in contemplating the amazing life of this tree is that it has experienced much more than most of us would probably take the time to acknowledge, and these experiences have come in many different forms, both good and bad. And yet here it stands- tall, strong, and purely beautiful. The pain, destruction, and lack of appreciation given to it throughout the years did not deem it to be unworthy of love and appreciation and it did not deem it to be anything less than beautiful. All that those experiences meant is that those who have not had an opportunity, or given the opportunity, to experience and appreciate this tree for all that it has to offer the world are missing out on some truly inspiring beauty. And sure, you can look at this tree and think, “Well, it’s just a tree. It doesn’t go anywhere, it doesn’t do anything… it’s a tree”. And it’s true- it is a tree. But it has so much more to offer than that term gives it credit for.

This tree has provided a sense of learning, wonder, and adventure for children. It has provided memories of those in love and shelter and shade for those who are lost. It has provided a sense of wonderful nostalgia for the elderly who can appreciate every wrinkle in its bark as they recall the days in which they used to marvel at its wonder and how it grows, climbing along its limbs in order to explore and experience it. It has provided a home and a playground for the many different and wonderful animals that coexist around it and it has provided a sense of inspiration for people like me who are simply looking for a place of solitude to gather their innermost thoughts and inspirations, which in turn allows them to go about their day with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the world around them, touching others with that love and joy and continuing to “branch out”, if you will.

This tree provides and contributes to life in so many ways, and it is vastly underrated. Sure, it could wallow in its sorrow for it’s broken limbs, or hunch over in shame for the lack of appreciation given by those who have harmed it or passed it by without a second glance. But instead, this tree stands proudly, allowing its limbs and leaves to blow gracefully in the wind and continues to soak up every ounce of warmth and love that it can gather from that sun as it stands, providing a place of significance to those who bless themselves with the opportunity to take a moment and soak in its beauty.

This tree has a purpose, it knows it, and it doesn’t allow anyone who can’t see or appreciate it to diminish it’s value in that purpose. This purpose may not be confined to one direction, such as providing oxygen to the world (though I hope we could all agree that that’d be more than enough if it were). Likewise, its purpose may not be solely to provide a home for the squirrels or to provide shade for those needing it. The tree’s purpose changes with the days, the weeks, the seasons, and the years, and that’s okay. Because it is a tree, and THAT is a beautiful purpose all in its own.

Today, this tree’s purpose was to provide beauty and inspiration and I’m grateful to have been touched by it. In fact, I think I finally know what I want to be when I grow up!

I’m gonna be a tree.

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