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The lesson of the pine–green, growing, productive in old age


Opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author.

Standing at the kitchen sink in my quiet country home, I look up. Outside the window, the old pine towers, a stalwart sentinel just there by the drive. At once, my mind registers what my eyes now see, and I note with delight its return.

Every branch on every long and sweeping bough is tipped with a light, bright green. If a tree could have a manicure, this is how it would look. The contrast against the dark greens and browns of the tree’s year-round garb is striking, and something within me eases as I admire its beauty. I’d forgotten that this happens every year.

The old tree has seen much. Quietly, wisely it holds its counsel. Generations come and go beneath its spreading branches, and the tree does not move from its post. Season after season, it holds its ground, and then comes the sacred awakening of spring, and that bold and cheering color.

The years march on, adding ring upon ring to its trunk. The grand, old dame with arms extended welcomes the birds from God’s heaven to sit, to shelter, to rest. All of this I see from my place at the kitchen sink.

The tree has weathered many storms. Some years ago, a tornado came crashing through, skirting the edges of our land, turning the back yard into a jungle of broken branches and limbs. The towering pine, though, escaped unscathed, upheld by an unseen hand.

Now, with the inner ear of the heart, I heard its springtime song, and it went like this. “New growth, new growth, new growth!”

The lessons of the pine tree are profound. The first lesson that came to me, upon reflection, sprang from its song, and I saw a simple truth; that even in old age, new growth can come. Creation is ever teaching those with ears to hear, and what happens with the trees can happen in the soul. As the passing years add erstwhile rings, as joints stiffen, as youth and vitality decline, the soul can continue to grow. It can deepen and thrive as the body gives way, burnished to a rich patina impossible for the young.

The storms of life have infused such as these with immense strength. Along the way, they have sought wisdom and truth with all of their hearts, and now, nearing the end, there is little that can shake them. Their roots have gone deep into the ground, driven there by suffering and by their faith. The weakness of the body cannot determine the strength of the soul, and these dear ones are treasure troves for the hungry.

The second lesson of the tree was that it did not question the purpose for its existence. All year long, it gladly received the birds, squirrels, and chipmunks that ran and flew the livelong day. This it did in the very spot in which it had been planted. No clamoring for a different place. No cries for release from its humble station. It merely held its place, and it grew.

What a lesson for all of us at any age and any stage. Wherever we are, wherever we’ve been ‘planted,’ there is good for us to do, and we’ve been put there for a reason. No one can reach everyone. I cannot reach those in your circle of influence. You cannot reach those in mine, but if we are all doing the work we were made to do, then together we will accomplish much. There’ll be light in every corner.

The third lesson of the tree was that it did not compare itself to the maple out front that flames with autumn’s fire or to any other nearby trees. It did not shrink and shrivel, whimpering because it deemed itself inferior. It simply was what it was created to be—a pine tree.

Comparison, I have learned, brings naught but misery. There is nothing good to be gained from it, for we shall judge ourselves to be either inferior or superior to other people. On both sides, there lies a trap. Inferiority and insecurity will keep us from doing all that we ought and could. Superiority fosters arrogance, and we will be unable to see ourselves and others clearly.

“I’m not her, but she’s not me, either.” This is what I learned to say as a younger woman struggling with comparison to others. Something within me shifted when I saw it. Truth is, we each bring something unique to the world, and it’s not a zero-sum game. There’s enough success to go around, and by elevating others, we will find that life has a way of elevating us. It’s not either/or; it’s both/and.

Lastly, the tree brought joy to our family just because it was; because it existed, and it lent its lovely presence to our yard. Ever green, ever productive, ever growing, there was one reason and one alone for it all.

It was the life it carried within.

So it is with us. When we carry true Life within, we will be ever green, ever productive, and ever growing until our final day. In this way, the world will be a better, more beautiful place because we have passed through it. May it be so.

Every Saturday morning, America’s small, caffeinated mom joins Bo Snerdley for a lively conversation. Often humorous, always heartwarming, it’s a segment you don’t want to miss.

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