The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit. ~Nelson Henderson
I planted ten trees on Saturday–wannabe trees is really more accurate. Connie, one of my neighbors, is in tune with nature and interested in improving and preserving her surroundings. She frequently sends donations to the Arbor Day Foundation, and every time she does, she receives a thank you gift–trees. She apparently has all the trees she needs, or she doesn’t think we have enough, because she passed her last gift on to me.
Looking at our almost two-and-a-half acre lot, the last thing you’d think we need is more trees. A couple of years ago, David took a tree census, and our population was eighty-five. We’ve lost a dozen or so to the drought since then, but we also have a lot of new saplings that the squirrels have planted. What we’re lacking, though, is color. We have a couple of black gum trees that turn a beautiful red in the fall, and David uncovered four dogwoods when he was clearing brush at the back of the lot, but most of the others are red oaks and pin oaks with a few elms and cedar trees thrown in for variety. The trees Connie gave us are all flowering trees–two each of Sargent Crabapple, Eastern Redbud, Washington Hawthorn, White Flowering Dogwood, and Golden Raintree.
You would expect a package containing all those trees to be rather large, but not this one. This package was a long, thin bag made of heavy-duty plastic. Inside was a bundle of ten twigs ranging from twelve to eighteen inches in length, and each twig had tiny roots growing out of one end. The root ends were in a smaller plastic bag with some gel-like, moisture-retaining pellets. Even though I neglected this thoughtful gift for a couple of months, the roots were still wet, and some of the more ambitious twigs had sprouted tiny leaves.
I haven’t planted many trees in my life, especially such embryonic ones, so I read the enclosed instructions. The first step was to remove the packing material, gently separate the roots, and soak them in a bucket of water for three to six hours. That gave me time to work on the next step—deciding where to plant them.
Connie had lots of suggestions about placement, but Feng Shui wasn’t the only consideration. I didn’t want them near the garden where they would block the sun, and David didn’t want them in the middle where he would have to mow around them. Finding spots where the newcomers wouldn’t be completely shaded by the veteran trees was also an issue. After walking the perimeter several times, I finally found ten spots that were at least acceptable and began the actual planting.
I enjoy working in the yard. Getting my hands dirty reminds me of the days when I played in the dirt with my brother and made mud pies with the other little girls in the neighborhood. Besides, the miracle of putting something in the ground and seeing it grow always inspires me. A session in the yard usually produces at least a blog post or two.
Saturday was no different. As I nestled the tiny twigs into their new homes, watered them in, and surrounded them with tomato cages to protect them from the mower, I wondered which ones would survive. I also wondered how long it would be before the survivors were big enough to bloom in the spring and give shade in the summer–and I wondered if we would still be here when that happens.
The first time I heard the quote by Nelson Henderson, my son Christian was talking about the trees in his front yard in Colorado. They were beautiful, but they were very old and beginning to show their age. He talked of plans to plant new trees between the older ones, so they could get good start before the older ones died. “That’s my idea of stewardship,” he said. “Planting trees you’ll never sit under.”
That’s the way it is with a lot of things–charity, ministry, teaching, serving others. You do what needs to be done without knowing whether you’ll get to see the results. The Apostle Paul put it this way in his first letter to the church in Corinth.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7