Nature fascinates me. It always has, but as I get older, it seems to call me even more.
This summer I journeyed north to visit my son, get some hiking in, and enjoy the sights and sounds of God’s gifts.
On our hikes, I’m the one usually lagging behind. It’s not that I can’t keep up (unless we’re really climbing😉), but my eyes are usually darting from one beautiful creation to another. Taking a photo here or ‘Hey, come see this!’ over there.
As I passed this tree, however, it didn’t excite me the way most things did. Instead, it was as if I was overwhelmed with a sense of mourning as my eyes scanned what was left of this majestic beast. The wood seemed solid, it did not appear diseased or decayed. Why had it fallen? What had taken it down? I could not tell, but what I did know, for sure, is that it once stood tall, planted, growing, living. But now, it had become a problem…blocking the path of hikers who were seeking a higher destination. Too large to be uprighted and replanted, too grand to be rolled out of the way. So, cut in half…never to be whole again.
I was mesmerized. I stood there. I started to count the rings. Some of them were very wide and distinct…obviously the good years. Lots of rain, sun, and healthy soil. It prospered. It grew. I envisioned the birds that had nested in its branches. I thought of the squirrels that had frolicked on its trunk. I imagined the shade it had provided a weary hiker. I faintly heard the woodpecker that had feasted on the insects hiding within its bark. It was life, abundant, and worked in perfect harmony.
I noticed the thin rings…some were almost too narrow to count. I paused. Life was hard then. It struggled, but it stood tall. It stayed strong. On the outside, life went on. But on the inside, it had been scarred. What had caused the hardship? Was it lack of rain? Probably. One need not being met, and it struggled. It stood tall, it didn’t let on, it blended in, but it struggled.
I counted on. It had endured. It had weathered many a storm. The rings told a silent story. Almost a century it had risen.
I thought of the many young this tree had bore…some were probably rooted nearby. Others may have been carried away and established elsewhere. They were independent. Life had moved on.
And as I pondered what was left of this felled giant, I glanced around. Although it’s first life was over, it was not the end. Life was truly beginning for a host of others…fungi, bacteria, beetles, worms.
It was still serving a purpose. It was still needed. It carried on. It is now a spot for a weary hiker to sit. It provides shelter for a burrowing chipmunk. Its pulp will be the needed nourishment for those that scavenge the forest floor. It will give back to the ground from which it took. Its legacy lives on.
The parallels to human life are obvious. Life starts grand. We have years where we grow and thrive. We have periods of struggle. But we carry on. We may be cut short by disease, accident, or felled by another circumstance or challenge. But we have served a purpose. We have planted seeds. We will leave memories. Our legacy will live on.