Friday, May 8, 2009

The Survivor Tree

The Survivor Tree is a Tulip Poplar (which is actually not a poplar, but a member of the magnolia family). She is old and she is tall. In 1992, she was hit by lightening. The bolt took out the top 20 to 30 feet of the tree and deposited in the back yard (it was not yet a garden). We expected her to die, for not many trees can survive a direct lightening strike and live to tell the tale. But the next spring, her jagged top sprouted new branches and she lived on.

Years passed, and she regained her height, now with two trunks that had sprouted from just below where Thor did his not so gentle pruning. Looking from afar, one could not see the scars left that fateful day. She was beautiful again.

In 2004, during a hurricane, one of the twin trunks that had grown above the lightening strike was ripped from her and thrown to the ground by the twisting winds. Other limbs that were ripped away are still lodged in a neighboring poplar about 30 feet away from her, having become "widow-makers". The next spring she began the process of growing more new limbs to reach toward the sky. We watched in awe as she refused to give up her quest.

In 2007, a windstorm took outmost of the new top growth from the lightening strike upward and several more limbs, flinging them to the four directions. Part of the original trunk was ripped away. It still carried the charring from the lightening strike of fifteen years before. Once again the back garden was littered with limbs, some driven so far into the earth that we could not remove them, instead we cut them off at ground level with a chainsaw.

Even this set-back did not defeat the Survivor Tree. She lives on and still produces her beautiful tulip shaped blooms each year. Her jagged profile can be seen from the road across the way, for even with all the damage, the Survivor Tree still stands tall and proud.

We all have endured the storms of this life. We have been struck down when we least expected it with a mortal blow. We have been blown and tossed about by the four winds. The lesson of the Survivor Tree is to bend in the winds of adversity, to stand with our roots deep in our faith, staying strong in our beliefs. To always reach for the sky, and to never, ever give up.