Buried beneath a light-hearted conversation at the Village Board meeting this week was a fair question about why we don’t let go of things that hold us down to make ourselves better. There is a tree in M&T Park that has lost its lower branches, according to Springville Mayor William Krebs, it’s because the tree is being choked by surrounding trees. It’s not the best looking tree, but it’s tall and produces a good amount of shade to the benches below it.
Last meeting put the tree on the chopping block, in favor of a newer, better looking tree. Krebs protested then, but agreed. This week, he reported that’s just the way the tree is, its needles and branches stretch higher as the surrounding trees grow. Because of that, the lower part of the tree looks barren.
I hike and camp a lot, so I spend most of my weekends in the woods. Many of the trees have similar qualities, it’s an interesting phenomenon. Each tree is trying to get closer to the sun, so it tries to grow taller than the tree standing next to it. When I’m hiking, I sometimes look up to see which tree is winning the tallest tree race. Above my head, the forest is lush and green and the sun only peaks through it, but at eye level, I see a few branches and very few needles.
But the tree in question stands among three other trees on the corner of two streets. Its bare trunk is hard not to see, and even when looking up, it’s not entirely impressive.
“It can’t help that it’s ugly,” Krebs said in jest at the meeting.
He’s right, though. The Concolor Fir in the middle of M&T Park can’t help its appearance below the sunshine no more than it can help the way we perceive it. What it can do, though, is help itself. The tree continues to grow to survive, of course, but also to better itself. Tall trees are seen as strong and historical. Imagine all the things it’s seen in its lifetime. People literally look up to tall trees.
I think we can all take a lesson from the tree. Imagine how much taller we’d stand if we only concern ourselves with what makes us better. We could shed the things that no longer provide us nourishment – be it an unhealthy friendship, a social media page that aggravates us or even just a pair of jeans that have never fit quite right – while reaching toward the things that will grow us. The things that help us become a taller tree.
It’s important to point out that the tree still has branch-nubs, places where it’s tallest branches once stood, just as we have scars. It doesn’t forgot the branches that helped get it to new heights, but rather uses them as a reminder of what it needs.
I know it’s a tree, and everything I just wrote is nothing more than similes and metaphors. If we’re voting, my ballot checked the “keep the tree” mark. After all, why get rid of something that provides us a reminder.