Monday, February 4, 2013
Trees are lovely assets to any community. They provide shade in the hot weather. They offer shelter to squirrels and birds. They come in a great variety, which adds interest to the landscape, and their height graces their surroundings with dignity. Yet we hardly think about what they offer, until they fall.
One day this past week, a tree along a busy street came down, the result of a raging, gusty wind that swept through South Jersey. The trunk reached out from the curb’s edge and stretched across the sidewalk and over the homeowner’s front lawn, spreading its branches onto the shingled roof of the house. Every driver that passed by stopped; it wasn’t something to ignore.
This was not the only tree to fall. Others landed on houses and cars, took down power lines and left families without electricity.
What made me pay particular attention to this tree, besides the fall itself, was how it was uprooted. The curb was undisturbed. There were hardly any roots extending from the trunk and the roots that were visible on the bottom were small and shallow, seemingly incapable of holding up such a large structure. You could not tell from looking at the tree that it had no firm foundation. How could it have developed a strong, expansive root system hemmed in, as it were, by cement?
In retrospect, it was surprising that it had remained upright for as long as it did. But there is strength built into the genetic code of the tree, even if we can’t see it. And there is strength inherent in the human code, as well. Trees and people start small yet given the right environment in which to grow, they become powerful. And that strength can overcome obstacles, seen and unseen.
The tree held on as long as it possibly could, given the surrounding conditions. I admire that, as I admire and appreciate the tenacity of people surviving, and often thriving, despite difficult circumstances. Strength is not always visible on the outside but it exists in all of us, to be respected and valued and remembered when it is gone.