Bend & Bloom
We had a bad wind storm this summer, which was really a terrible hurricane in other parts of the state, and it left it’s mark on our backyard with broken limbs and foliage everywhere.
After the storm had subsided, I walked the back property along the fence line, surveying any potential damage. The sun was shining and the clouds above were moving at a rapid pace; still remnants from the passing hurricane. The grass swooshed under my sneakers as I walked, with only occasional sticks or puddles to slow me down. To the right of my house we have a metal bench swing about a foot from the fence, I was pleased to see it had been unharmed.
Yet, only 5 feet next to it, a large 12-15 foot bushy tree had fallen completely over. As I stood there dazed (and confused) I thought it looked like a giant foot had stepped on the tree, flattening it to the ground. The fence and surrounding plants were all untouched. Although it had been blown over, none of the limbs were broken, but instead simply bent down leaving the roots of the tree completely exposed, and the top of the tree laying on the ground in front of it.
I started to walk around it and marveled at how in the world only one tree could be affected when everything else stood as it always had. Just another thing to clean up, I thought, and continued on with the inspection.
Apart from random sticks and limbs in the yard and the fallen tree (which we later realized had been struck by lightening), all was fine.
We decided that we would try to lift the tree back up and maybe tie it to the fence, (if the tree or the fence would actually hold). Armed with rope and gloves, my husband and I march outside to fix the bent tree. I held the rope secure while he wrapped it around the tree's middle. I actually felt like a caveman with our pulley system, while simultaneously wishing I had paid more attention in 3rd grade physical science class.
Marc wraps his hands around the tree branches and I pull the rope, but the tree will not budge. It stays firmly on the ground as if it was always there, as if it had never been upright to begin with. We give it a few more tries, failing each time, then deciding it wasn’t worth pulling our backs out for.
We moved on, and piled up the rest of the debris, then went inside.
We spoke about having to have the tree cut down, it clearly would never stand upright again after the storm, but neither of us ever called a tree service that weekend.
A week later we found ourselves in the yard again staring at this sad bent tree. The full branches with it’s leaves reach my waist and I run my hands through them, amazed that they are all still green. It felt like a sin to chop this tree down, after all, if it had survived this great impact, who were we to cut it down? So we both decided to just leave it be where it was, fallen and bent, laying in the yard. When you’ve been in my line of work as long as I have, compassion extends far beyond creatures with heartbeats, and I couldn’t kill what so clearly wanted to live.
Many weeks passed and, as expected, the debris piles turned brown and wilted. But, the fallen tree thrived in it’s awkward state. I giggle thinking it could almost pass as a large shrub if the trunk wasn’t so long, and I’m glad I didn’t kill it.
As autumn arrived, it brought with it windier, cooler weather, brown leaves on the grass and best of all, the ability to be outside without sweating or being stung by something.
One Monday morning, while on a break from the office, I decided to take a quick walk outside in the backyard. The best thing about our yard is the trees, to be precise: the pine trees; tall, skinny things that make that comforting woosh sound when the wind blows through them. It was cool that Monday, for Florida standards, and I savored every moment as I walked listening to the trees and wind sing together.
Turning a corner, I saw our pile of old foliage; all brown and probably rotting by the looks of it. The leaves were crumply and most of the sticks and matter had matted together from rain over the past 2-3 months. What a storm, I thought. Then I glanced over and noticed our bent tree.
Still laid on the ground, it’s leaves still a bright green, it had bloomed.
Bright yellow blooms covered the limbs of our tree, making it feel like a bright spring day. Bees buzzed to and from the flowers, gathering pollen. I marveled at life’s beauty in the bent trees.
It’s only natural to cut off that which offends you, that which scares you, that which is broken or bent. But in so doing, we kill it. Like our debris piles, you wither away your chances, your opportunity for growth or life; it just dies.
And isn’t it also true that we survive storms? Don’t we all get knocked down, beaten to the floor, and bent? So should we then also cut ourselves down and allow ourselves to wither because a storm affected us? What if there isn’t a fence to tether yourself to? What if you’re so damaged you can never stand up again? Should you be thrown into the debris pile?
We must learn to be like the tree, which bends and blooms with the storms. We must learn to bend, not break.
Write down 3 things in your life that are “Bent and Blooming”, and add in some nurturing encouraging notes to yourself. Then, hide it from yourself in a book, in your underwear drawer, the garage (ok, maybe not the garage!) or anywhere else you won’t see it for a while.
By doing so, you are validating that imperfection is perfect. You are helping yourself to blossom now, while planting seeds for your future self to read.
When you feel broken, remember you’re just bent, and you can still bloom.
Linda Lavender writes articles to help folks with Auto Immune Disease, Depression, Anxiety and other health related illnesses.