It is a huge oak tree, quite likely over a hundred years old. Its lower branches extend forty to fifty feet away from the trunk. Even before the ice storm of ’07, it was a source of constant litter. I spent an afternoon last fall using my neighbor’s extension pruner to pull dead limbs from the tree. Some I had to break loose; many others were lodged in the junctions of other limbs. By pulling, poking, tugging and shoving, I was able to clear a full truckload of debris from the tree. The largest piece that I managed to get to the ground was eight inches thick at its base and over twenty feet long. A piece of oak that size could ruin an afternoon of mowing the yard simply by falling at an inopportune moment.
Since the efforts of that autumn afternoon, I haven’t had nearly as much oak trash to pick up. But when the winds gust up to forty miles an hour, there is still a task or two waiting for me when I get home. Yesterday’s task included eight feet of a branch that had been dead for some time along with the fragments thereof that separated on impact with the ground. Then, there were several tips of branches that were not dead; they had green leaves attached.
In a world where storms are sometimes stronger than oak trees, it takes more than bending a bit now and then to stand our ground. It takes a strength rooted into something solid, something that nourishes and anchors. We may lose a bit of ourselves along the way. But it is better to bear the scars of life and keep going and growing than to find ourselves shriveled and withered, tossed and tumbled like a rootless weed drifting about at the whims of the world.