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Missing the Forest and the Trees

Let me preface this by saying that I'm a very caring gardener. I think about my flowers and trees more than I should. I usually spend every weekend in May and June working on my yard. I am a good gardener.

When we purchased this home, the backyard was a huge selling point. I had never owned a backyard in the Midwest before so I had a thing or two to learn about these new varieties of vegetation. The back fence was beautifully lined with Arborvitae trees for privacy. The greenery in this backyard was something I had never experienced. I was used to palm trees and Mesquite trees. I didn't even know what type of trees these were when we moved in.

After a few years, the trees were failing to provide the privacy that they once had. Through a sea of bare branches, I could now see straight through to the road. The luscious green backdrop of my beautiful backyard was fading. As I investigated the state of my trees, I saw some limbs had been zip-tied together, to ensure vertical growth. For the next few years, I continued to force limbs together and tied them as I saw fit. I cared for these trees. I wanted them to produce the greenery that I so loved when we moved in.

This summer, I gave up on one of them. It was 15 feet tall and completely bare. This thirty year old tree was infuriating me, mocking me with how it refused to do the most simple tree-task. It was now nothing more than dead weight in my otherwise beautiful yard. I knew I had to cut it down but that felt wrong because, I love trees. I cut it down with a handsaw and dug up its amazing roots with only a shovel. I knew I was doing what my yard needed.

Within days, I was on the hunt for the next least productive tree on my property. If they aren't going to do what I need, then I don't need them here. I spent more time thinking about these trees than I would like to admit. I was bound to find more trees not living up to their tree-potential but as I scoured the branches, I saw much more than the tangled twigs. I saw years of zip-ties up the stems of these trees. Some trunks had been strong enough to break free from their restraints. Others found a way to live with the oppression, even growing over the zip-tie and absorbing it's dominance and attempting to go on. Some had given up, unable to reach the space or sunlight it deserved. I was literally suppressing these trees, tying their hands and asking them why they wouldn't thrive.

I was the problem. No, I didn't start the problem. That was generations before me. And I wasn't out to hold these trees down. In fact, I didn't even realize I was doing it. Remember, I love trees. Some of my best friends are trees....

Today my trees were freed. I began a game with my daughters to see who could find the most zip ties and we cut them off. Some of the holds were too old, and thus, too high for me to release. Just like in life, some scars are too deep to ever really heal. As I removed the hold I had placed upon these branches, I could hear the trees breathe a sign of relief. The branches now hang heavy and tired, but free. I have no idea if they will find a way to thrive. How long are victims allowed to mourn their deep scars?

As for the hole where once stood a sturdy tree...

It's been two weeks since that tree has been down. And in it's place is a brand new baby tree, naive to the shackles that were placed upon his predecessor. Don't worry, little guy. We are learning. We are smarter. We will do better than we did yesterday.

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