Agitated, annoyed and emotionally drained I needed the calming effect of a drive through the country. Riding in a car allows me to displace present and persisting mental challenges, and gives me a sense of “being away.”
I headed north on a black-topped two lane road. It was a late spring morning and the clouds’ shadows were clearly defined. I watched them move across the fields and up the sides of bordering wind breaks and wood lots. I recalled a drive through the
with a friend and watching the cloud shadows move up and down verdant slopes. My friend is an opera singer, and as I drove she practiced her music for an upcoming performance. The memory softens the hardness that I am trying to leave behind. Smokey Mountains
I slowed the car as I came upon a pasture with a herd of
Holstein milk cows. Their white markings contrasted against the black and glowed in the sunlight. Lowing softly they lumbered across the field. I smiled with the same delight as when I had bought the Lowell Herrero Holy Cow plate. He had painted Holsteins being herded by habited Benedictine Nuns across a furrowed field in a winter scene of farm buildings and heavy gray skies. I’m not a plate collector, but Holy Cow tickled me. I smiled as I watched the cows move away, looked at the pastoral scene a few seconds longer, and drove on.
The road pointed straight to the distant horizon, no curves or hills. I passed farms and fields, homes and trees without notice or care. The low rumble of the car’s tires was soothing. Like a clothes dryers to babies or white noise for the sleepless, the rhythmic drone dulled my senses.
I had been on the road for awhile when up ahead I saw a white flowering tree growing on a ditch-line slope. Its shape was odd and from a distance I thought it a very large shrub. As I neared I saw the tree had been broken in two. The sight of a tree split in half is not uncommon, but to see one split like this and flowering profusely was a reason to stop.
The shattered tree was not fully matured, but still a good size. The trunk was split right down the center and half of the tree rested on the ground. What catastrophic event had assaulted it? What had broken it to its core, leaving it forever contorted? I parked the car. I wanted to touch this tree.
I walked into the ditch and looked up the incline. I had a clear view of the tree’s trunk. The side closest to the road was smooth and had a silvery sheen. The center gash had large slices of exposed wood fanning out connecting the twisted, grounded portion. I tried to determine if it had been snow and ice that caused the break, or maybe lightning or a wind sheer. I decided it didn’t matter what had caused the damage, it was a wonder the tree had lived at all.
The leaves on both halves were shiny and fully developed. I thought that there would be some distortion to their growth, at least on the damaged side. The prolific flowers were fragrant and newly opened. I could hear the buzzing of excited bees as they whirled, dizzily gathering pollen. By the looks of it, the tree would bear fruit and feed the community of birds or any number of wildlife.
Taking a few steps towards the tree I bent down under the flowering limbs and closer to its scarred frame. The wound was old, partially healed over and not as ugly with infection as I thought it would be. I was tentative about placing my finger tips, and then my palm against the smooth bark, but felt emotionally lighter after having touched its disfigured trunk.
The tree’s life had been shortened by the wounding; the damage had caused unexpected stress to its growth. Standing before that tree I was in awe because, though severely broken and damaged, it lived, and as it lives it flowers and bears fruit. I wondered if those of us who have been deeply wounded, and who are working with God to manage our pain, are living examples as beautiful and fruitful as this tree.