In recent weeks, I have been spending some evenings and weekends in our woods, cutting firewood and chopping away at the dead undergrowth. It’s not because we need the firewood to keep warm this winter – we’re pretty well set there. It’s because I find it peaceful in the woods. Also, it is something that constantly needs doing that I am capable of doing. My husband helps when he is able – and boy do we get a lot more done when he is operating the chainsaw – but every square foot I get cleaned up is still a benefit. You see, as we get areas cleaned, my husband is better able to mow in them. The better he can mow, the more pasture and nutritious goodies there are for our cows to eat.
Sometimes, when I’m working alone, I’m struck by how amazing nature actually is. Even though it is frustrating to have reclaimed an area and then lose it almost immediately, the way the earth takes back a piece of ground when it has been overlooked for even a short period of time is an incredible testimony to the powerful design of our Creator.
For example, in one area, there are a few stumps that had been pushed into a pile a few years ago. I thought it made sense to use that stump pile as the base for all of the brush I’ve been clearing. One night, I noticed that, some time ago, one of those stumps had rolled from the pile and come to rest against a tree. When it happened, the stump must have cut into the tree’s bark, but the tree was determined to survive. It healed its wound by surrounding part of the stump and continuing to grow. There is a knobby lump where the two meet, but it would take an excavator to remove the stump from the tree at this point.
Certain logs that have been lying down for several years are still hard and solid enough to make good firewood. In addition, I saw other stumps that have new shoots growing out of the top or the side. But these wounds and (even apparent death) cannot stop nature from marching forward.
I believe this resiliency is available to us humans, as well. Wounds, scars, tragedy, trials … they certainly have the power to put us down. And we have the choice to allow these things to break us or make us stronger. For the challenges to be the end or a new beginning. For our wound to be temporary or permanent.
Personally, I don’t want to be the tree that dies when it gets struck by a stump. I don’t want to be the log that stays down forever. I want to be the stump that grows a new shoot. I want to be the tree that heals its wound, taking on the stump as part of its story, and continuing to grow and reach for greatness. We can all choose to be that tree.
Laura Zoeller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.