Our farm place is home to a tree that our children have deemed an eyesore for a very long time. I do have to admit the old boxelder is a pretty sad looking specimen as trees go. It stands alone between the barn and the corn crib surrounded by tall grass. It does kind of get in the way of our view of the river.
It is a pretty typical boxelder tree. They are a variety of maple tree that does not seem to be able to decide if it should be a bush or a tree. This particular tree has also struggled for years with deciding if it was alive or dead…..It has lots of dead top branches and some shoots growing near the bottom that leaf out every year.
My husband always told the kids that when all the big dead branches fell off the top he would let the tree go and take it down. He told them that would be happening in God’s time so they could talk all they wanted about cutting it down; but the talking would do them no good.
I do kind of like that old tree. In the years we have been here we have enjoyed watching families of squirrels being raised in it’s hollow core. That boxelder has been home, not only to squirrels but also to wood ducks, starlings (not my favorite!), woodpeckers, flickers and more.
It has been the roosting spot for hawks of all kinds, screech owls, great-horned owls, and eagles as they follow the migration of ducks and geese each spring and fall. We have even had a Canadian goose decide it was a great place to set and take a rest.
It has been great (and cheap) entertainment to grab the lawn chairs, your favorite beverage (tea in my case), and sit in the middle of the lawn just watching the tree. It is amazing the variety of critters that have called it home for one season or many seasons.
Just the other day, the last, large branch fell off when a strong breeze came through. My husband happened to be looking out the patio door as it happened. I think it kind of stunned him. He knew it would happen sometime….he just figured it would be in the middle of a big windstorm.
I asked him if the tree was going to be coming down since the main branches were now gone. I was told that, yes, it would be coming down but he would be needing time to grieve. He smiled as he said that, but I am sure there was some truth to his reply.
There were and are lots of lessons to be learned from that scrappy looking tree. Lessons like being useful when everyone else thinks you are way past your prime. Lessons such as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There is a strange beauty in the things that are rugged and scarred by life. There is a truth in the fact that you may be rugged and scarred but you have withstood storms that may have left others to beaten to go on. There is a contentment in the acceptance of the brokenness and a peace that comes from finding a new purpose for what life looks like now.
I have no idea how old that tree is but I bet if it could talk it would have some great stories to tell. Tales of families living on this place, tales of love, joy, tears and heartache. Stories of children climbing in it’s branches and beautiful golden days standing in the sun. Stories of leaves rustling in the wind as a million stars shone overhead and being serenaded by the frogs in the creek, the crickets hiding in the long grass and the slap of the beaver’s tail on the river.
There would also be the stories of hail storms, sideways rain, blizzards and choking dust on windy summer days. I can only imagine the history that has happened as that boxelder tree silently stood watch.
I can only hope that as I get older, I weather life with as much grace and dignity as that old tree…..standing strong, bending, sometimes seeming to break, but coming back to life with each spring season. I would hope to be a silent witness to God’s faithfulness and the beauty of perseverance.
“Stand firm, and you will win life.”
Luke 21:19 (NIV)