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Friday, May 22, 2015

When life knocks you flat



My porch is great for watching storms. It's a simple porch but it's sturdy, practically wrap-around windows. You couldn’t ask for more. So one scorchingly hot July day I was out there watching a thunderstorm roll in. The first winds starting up, the dark clouds encroaching, a grumble of thunder and then BAM the storm hits full-force, vicious screaming winds, rain squalls, blistering lightning, deafening thunderclaps. It was so intense. I half worried about tornadoes and being hit by lightning but I stayed the course. Then I saw something that really transfixed me.

I need to back up just a touch. The company next door to the apartment building where I live had just put in new landscaping a couple of weeks before. Top shelf stuff. Sod. Mulch. Everything first-class, including fully-grown trees. Well, it was kind of odd to suddenly see the trees especially. It's like there's nothing but a worn-out lawn, brown patches everywhere one day and then you wake up and it's like the Garden of Eden. (Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration.)

Back to the storm. The windows were bowing. Plastered by angry rain. Butterflies racing through my stomach but I kept watching. Then a wind shear cut across the earth and—snap!—one of the fully formed trees broke right off at the root. That was it. Where there once was a beautiful tree there was nothing.

And the storm left leaving no apologies.

A couple of years went by with nothing but a lawn where the beautiful tree had been. But then...but then one spring there was a tiny little shoot that rose from the earth. Not much bigger than a dandelion. In fact, at first I thought it might be a weed. But that summer the little shoot grew to maybe two feet high. And then it survived a brutal winter, buried under mountains of ice and snow. The following spring it came back and now there were two shoots and they were thicker and stronger.

And year after year the process continued until where there once had been nothing now stands the tree you see in the photo in this post.

Oh, maybe it's not the lean beautiful tree it once was. But it is. It survived. Maybe when it went down people wrote if off. "Too bad," they might have said. "That used to be a nice tree." But they didn't know that little tree wasn't done, that it wasn't giving up, that it wasn't influenced by what people said or didn't say. It was going to live.

The tree looks different now. More like a bush than a tree. But it's stronger now too. All the shoots protect each other. Year after year it's weathered every storm with ease, and it's going to keep growing and growing and getting stronger and stronger.

And all that from something that got knocked flat.

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