Eight years ago, when I bought the house I currently live in, I carefully selected the tree I wanted to plant in the backyard: a Clump Maple Amur. I chose it because of the random multiple trunks that sprout from the base and its ability to thrive in the dry area where we live. I had the landscaper plant it in the back corner of our lot where I could enjoy a perfect view of it from either of our kitchen windows. That tree made me feel so happy as its many branches rose up and curved over like a tidal wave.
Fast forward a couple years and a few neighbor move-ins and move-outs and our tree was not looking so good. One night, as I was preparing dinner, I looked out the kitchen sink window and realized that our new neighbor's sprinklers had been on for a long time. About an hour after they finally shut off, they came on again!
I noticed this the following night and the following night and the night after that. His sprinklers came on for 45 minutes TWICE a day watering the 6-foot wide segment of lawn separating his yard from our tree! Do you know what happens to a drought-resistant tree that sits in a pool of water for weeks? It drowns. I mentioned this to my husband but, ultimately, neither of us said anything to our neighbor about it. We were recovering from a heart-wrenching family loss and neither of us had the mental energy to do much of anything else. We just hoped that one summer of extreme over-watering would not hurt our tree.
We were wrong. The tree died. The following summer, in the corner of the backyard where there used to be a happy, cascading tree stood the curved skeleton of my clump maple amur. I was sad.
The following summer, after the well-intentioned over-watering neighbor had moved away, there appeared a little weak green branch from the root ball, but all the main branches remained bare. And so it was for a couple years. I could not bear to remove the tree; I held hope that somehow the larger stems would be revived. Every so often, my husband and I talked about what to do with the little dead tree, but the conversation always ended with no resolution.
This year, in the early part of Spring, I found the main stem of the tree lying on the ground. I guessed aloud that some neighborhood kid must have broken it. My husband responded, "No, it's just dead. It broke from the wind last night." My stomach felt a sad ache. We would have to soon decide what to do with that tree I had so carefully chosen years earlier and likely be treeless for some time.
Today, when I was checking out the vegetable garden with my little daughters, I noticed the tree had a bunch of little branches with green leaves. I looked at the larger stems, still dead and curving; I snapped their ends and, as expected, found them completely dry. It did not take any effort to completely break off the entire branches from the base of the tree. What was left surprised me.
The spindly branch from years ago was a little thicker, and without the dead branches looming overhead, the plant actually looked like a healthy, albeit young, tree. Here was a tree making a comeback and its efforts were being overlooked because I kept focusing on what "had been" or "should have been." I was so accustomed to mourning my old curving tree that I hadn't noticed a perfectly good upright tree growing right in the middle of all those dead branches. Only after stripping away what was no longer needed could I see what was becoming.
My thoughts immediately remembered a message a former networking associate shared on her Facebook wall yesterday: To uplevel your life, relationships, and business, it may require you to strip everything away then put back ONLY the things that match where you are going, not where you've been.
I was not allowing my joy of backyard nature to grow a level because I kept focusing on the skeleton branches of what my tree had been. Thank goodness God initiated the stripping away earlier in the season with a swift wind because it set a precedence for me today to take down the other had-beens.
And it leaves me thinking... What other dead branches in my life need removing so I can delight in the new trees sprouting all around?