Planting a Tree Both Literally AND Metaphorically

The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.

~Nelson Henderson

Acacia tree and vegetation

Flickr Creative Commons by The Field Museum Library

I planted a tree this morning. Anyone who knows me “gets” that hanging out in the yard and mucking around in the garden is “spiritual” for me. It’s where I do my thinking, find peace and unwind. So what, you may be asking yourselves?!?

Well, this tree was special. It wasn’t a garden centre purchase, grown and raised intentionally to beautify a perfectly manicured lawn. Nope. This tree chose US! It VOLUNTEERED to come to our yard! Sadly, though, it chose to grow in the WRONG spot. For the past couple of years, my husband and I watched it grow. We speculated on what KIND of plant it might be … and suddenly, this Spring when it seemed to ROCKET sky high, we decided that we HAD to take it out, after realizing that it would become an actual TREE! It had chosen to spring up RIGHT next to the gas metre … NEVER a great place for a tree.

Two months ago, we spent an ENTIRE day digging it carefully out … hoping to be able to untangle its extensive roots without disrupting the gas line … just a LITTLE scary. After HOURS of working with the intricate root system, and digging two FEET into the ground to discover that the TAP root seemed to go down for MILES, we decided to cut our losses and sever the root. It made me sad to think that we were possibly ending this little tree’s life. On a whim, we popped it into an empty pot along with the soil it had chosen to begin its life in. Don’t ASK me how it had survived in the soil to BEGIN with … the dirt was LARGELY clay based!

We watered it and watched its leaves begin to shrivel. We CONTINUED to water it. Its leaves began to crumble. Finally, pruning shears in hand, I approached it sadly, with the intention of cutting it down. Imagine my SURPRISE when I discovered brand NEW leaves beginning to sprout … all OVER each of its Charlie Brown branches! THIS tree was a SURVIVOR! Talk about perseverance even in the face of adversity! This was a tree that was DETERMINED to live with us … so … I decided to give it a PERMANENT home.

The WHOLE time I spent planting our little miracle tree, in a PERFECT spot in the garden unencumbered by gas lines, I couldn’t help thinking about a student I had the privilege of working with this past year. Strange, I KNOW … but … he REMINDED me of my little tree.

He was new to our school this year. He felt a little “out of place” … in the wrong spot … just like the tree. He was quiet, a little unsure of himself, and he kept his reading skills WELL hidden for the first few days of school by “reading” chapter books. Early one September morning, driving into the school parking lot, I saw his mother STRUGGLING to get him to go into the “before school” program so that she could leave for work.

He was crying. She was crying. He was WHITE knuckled … hanging onto the car door for dear life. She was trying to console him, to get him to let go so that she wouldn’t be late. I wasn’t sure whether she wanted me there or not … sometimes people want privacy when they are dealing with family issues. Uncertain, I walked over to the vehicle anyway, hoping that she wouldn’t mind my attempt to “help out” … after all … it was early in the school year and we hadn’t had time to build a trusting relationship yet. I tried to console them BOTH … I remember WELL mornings like this with MY boys. Truly one of the MORE heart-breaking ways to begin your day.

After about 20 minutes of gut wrenching negotiations in the parking lot, the emotional eight year old accompanied me to my classroom to “help me out” before school began for the day. We chatted about “little” things … soccer … life in the new house … friends … and then began to talk about more serious topics. THAT morning, we BOTH decided to spend two mornings a week together BEFORE school even began. We READ together … we laughed together … we developed a MEANINGFUL relationship. I watched his READING skills grow, his CONFIDENCE grow … but … MORE importantly, I watched this young man TRANSFORM. When he came to me, in September, he was curled in on himself … much like the leaves on my uprooted tree. By the time June arrived, he was BLOSSOMING … like the new leaves on our tree. He persevered, he overcame his reading challenge … and he has won a special place in my heart. This little boy, like MANY others, will forever be a part of my cherished garden of teaching memories.

Imagine my surprise then when I saw this YouTube video by Dr. Mackie, shared by Krissy Venosdale, (@ktvee), shortly after planting my special tree and thinking about my reading buddy this past year! I couldn’t help but smile as I listened to Dr. Mackie speak about his OWN struggles through school. It reinforces, for me, the deep “seeded”, (ya … I know … seated … but … seeded works SO well here … with the metaphors and all), belief that we ALL need someone in our “corner”. Someone who believes in us, inspires us, supports us AND nurtures us. You can’t HELP but watch this amazing speaker and feel that what we do, each and EVERY day for our students, IS important and noble:


You see, my tree was a DIAMOND in the rough …  just like EACH of us is a diamond in the rough … but DIAMONDS for SURE. They will FIND their niches … they WILL shine BRILLIANTLY.

We should ALL strive to plant trees.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *