By Colleen Jais
In my mind’s eye, I see a tree.
I close my eyes and let the image form, give myself over to the shape and colors and beauty of this tree. Its colors are lush and exotic; red, blue, purple, green, pink. This tree is born of emotion, and there it is growing in my mind as clear as if it lives in the green earth amid dirt and grass and wind. Bearing fruit of many colors, family tree reaches up toward the light, limbs heavy, laden, yet they bend and sway in the wind; their leaves rustling, like a symphony in motion, light, and sound.
I can feel the living breath of this tree. Under the earth, the root system, healthy, supporting; it sustains and nurtures every part of this tree.
However, a vital limb was severed, sliced off, removed; a deep gash, oozing sap, exposing raw wood, leaving the tree vulnerable to disease, to the elements.
I am afraid for this tree. Could it die?
Saving the Sugar Maple
I know this to be a possibility because I saw it happen once before to a tree that I treasured. It was a precarious situation—the balance of the tree between life and death— and I was unsure whether it would survive.
We had a diseased tree in our backyard and decided to have it removed before hurricane season began. The tree company came and laid out a verbal plan for what needed to be done. About a half hour after they began, I happened to glance out my window, and I saw that the workers had almost cut through a tree we hadn’t even discussed, a vital, healthy old sugar maple that reigned at the corner of the yard. We loved that maple. It was integral to our family life; it shaded the children’s swing set from the hot summer sun, and it offered cool relief over our deck so we could enjoy the afternoon breeze. Its leaves were a rich palette of color throughout the year, culminating in red, yellow, and orange brilliance in the fall, lighting up our yard and our spirits, before the long winter gray descended upon us.
I looked at that tree every day, and now the chainsaw was slicing, roaring through its honeyed wood! I ran out of the house like a lunatic—screaming, “STOP! Stop, that’s the wrong tree!” I was furious. I know they thought my reaction was irrational—all this drama over a tree? My response was visceral, from the core of my being. The jagged cut made with that power tool was deep and severe. The foreman of the tree company’s crew didn’t know if the tree could be saved at that point, the cut being so deep. I attempted to calm down and then slowly and thoughtfully, I said I wanted to try. I must try. I had them tell me exactly what to do and how to tend the “wound” to give the tree a fighting chance at survival. The foreman said it was less than a 50 percent chance that the tree would live—he was sorry but in the end it was easier if they just finished cutting it down. We chose to try and save the tree. Our tree. Our family tree.
The sugar maple, ever towering over our three-story house was like a wounded giant subsisting in our backyard. Its majestic size and presence became even more of a part of our daily lives, and it needed to be tended with affection and deference. We hovered around it at all times of the day; sometimes just standing near it, listening, or running our hands over the rough bark near the cut. Then slowly, very slowly it began to respond. The tree grew a thick scab-like coating around the cut area, like skin growing around a wound. Insects and wildlife continually attacked that vulnerable spot, and we would have to clean it out, repair the damage, tend the cut like an injury. We took a stake in the preserving, protecting, and providing for this tree during its healing time.
Healing My Family
I acknowledge the analogy between the sugar maple and the family tree that lives in my mind and my soul. My real family, our physical family, was deeply wounded through a physical death; a part of our family severed and I didn’t know if the rest of it (of us) could survive, as a family. I had to go deep to remember the basics, even if I had no idea if that would work to keep us whole.
I close my eyes again and see that the family tree stands tall—starting from the roots, from the soil it was born in, drawing in the necessary water and sustenance in what is required to build up its defenses. Looking up at the leaves; I recognize they are healthy, springy and full; saturating the sky above with color and sound.
I acknowledge, too, that in nature pruning strengthens the core of a tree, of what is left behind, bringing fresh growth—health, vitality, and balance.
Family tree, like my physical family, survived the severed limb because the roots had always had a strong base on which to flourish and thrive.
Strength courses from below, surging up the trunk, which is the tree’s stability, then flows upward to the branches, and on through to the leaves. That energy, that strength, that flow, pushes itself into a tiny bud that ultimately becomes the ripened fruit. The fruit of my physical family was the consummation of trust, hope, and faith. It flourishes in each of us.
I have tended the wound of my family, and helped it heal by remembering where strength comes from. I looked to the natural world, and ultimately to a tree, for my inspiration in the process of growth. Family tree has been molded from a wounded reality through the healing vibration of imagination and courage. Family tree is representative of both life and death; positive and negative; the spirit and the physical, past and future. Balance.
Family tree is a reminder of the dichotomy of life.
Colleen Jais, is author of Into the Slipstream: A Guide to Finding Inspiration through Grief, Loss and Change. For Colleen, life is a study of transition; life itself becoming her resume. An artist living in the real world, Colleen has always worn many hats to fulfill the practical nature of the journey of daily life and all of its evolutions. A writer, an artist, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, business owner, and entrepreneur, whose passage through these transitions is the fabric of her being. Colleen shows that each ‘change’ along the way is an extension of her ability to assimilate and then access the wisdom born of life experience. This capacity level or the ‘war chest of experience’ has guided Colleen through life from small town girl to a well-traveled capable soul, ready to guide others through the twists and turns of living their journey. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is a chapter from the book Transform Your Life! written by 60 real-life heroes and experts and available at Amazon.com, BN.com, www.Transformation-Publishing.com and all ebook formats.