Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Growing Tree

This morning I woke to snow falling in the early morning hours; it made me think of an old friend.

Looking back, I guess I don't really remember when we became friends. Ours' is like that friendship that you stumble into, where you're both in line for the restroom at the wedding of a friend's second cousin; and while you both had other things you would have rather done that night, ultimately you're glad you showed up. Neither of us said a word, we didn’t have to. Instantly a bond was formed. One that would span time, distance and weather many storms. 
I suppose I first noticed the Tree after Laura and I rearranged our twin beds. Rather than her closet, overly-full with swim caps, pom-poms and cheerleading tights, I now had a view that looked directly out the south window of our bedroom; and from there, I could see the Growing Tree. 

It was smaller then. It’s limbs were still developing and it’s trunk looked like a thumb tack emerging from the ground. It was amazing how the breaks in the tree limbs outside my window, the breaks in the tree line that separated our land from the Kinsinger's and the fencerow all lent a perfect view from my room to the Growing Tree, nearly a mile away. 
I was smaller then. A twin bed was roomy enough for this young gal and sharing a room with a sister five years older  was more than a girl that age could ask for. 

And I have watched that Tree grow...

I’ve watched hundreds of sunrises light It’s branches on fire, so beautifully it seemed every detail of the Tree was illuminated; and countless sunsets have hit the Tree so perfectly during feeding time, I wished I had a camera around my neck to capture the moment, rather than a scarf. 

I’ve passed It on my way back to the furthest pasture on my parent's farm; usually bored with walking and maybe a little winded in four layers of frozen clothing, It is always a welcome site - the Tree means I’m close to my destination. 

 The Growing Tree has sat quietly in the background of many photos I’ve taken of our Shorthorns over the years; I never asked, and I suppose It never minded.

I think the Tree took pride in being a (second-in-line) focal point; years of being tucked away, far off the beaten path allowed It to shine when needed, which wasn’t often. It’s never been given much attention, but It never once complained; never trimmed, chopped or even climbed upon. 
However, the Growing Tree has not gone completely unnoticed. We’ve found It to be a convenient place to toss rocks found as we’ve walked the land.  Stones that would likely tear up a mower, now rest at the deep roots of the Tree; they too weather storms and wind on top of the hill, just as It does.

It’s felt blistering hot summers that made It’s branches limber and warm. It has experienced sub-zero winters that brought ice and snow making the Tree crackle and pop with any gust of wind that moved It’s stiff and sore limbs. The high winds have embraced It and the calm, star-lit nights have healed It. The old Tree has watched hundreds of cattle move in and out of It’s view, serving as shade for the few that were bold enough to get  close to the electric fence. It’s watched the Kawasaki Mule zip right past with out even a second glance, and my Momma walk her tired legs across the hills that lie before It, with two pups by her side. 
The Growing Tree has witnessed It’s share of fall-outs back in that corner pasture, as the crew of Bowman Superior Genetics lost their tempers over early calvers, broken mower blades, slow walkers, ill-positioned help while moving cattle, coyotes and water hydrants that had been left on for hours. 

While standing under the Growing Tree’s arms you can look far northwest, beyond the fence and hay field, through the crop ground and down the rolling hill -  and see homestead in which I grew.

On the second floor, far left hand window, resting on the front corner of that old home, is where I laid my head for twenty years; and I watched that Growing Tree grow, on the top of a hill on land that Mom and Dad didn’t even own when We became friends.

And while I’ve watched It’s branches grow and sprawl, into what Dad thinks will eventually be his high tinsel fence, The Growing Tree has watched me evolve, too. 

I used to look out that old window to that Tree and pray Mom and Dad would buy the farm up the road, the one where the Growing Tree lived. I knew nothing about the land, the plans Dad had for Mom and us three children or even how many acres it was. As a young girl I just knew Dad wanted it, so I wanted it, too. 
It was sitting there in the moonlight when I cried in the late summer of 1998 when Laura moved away to Indiana University, leaving me a room all to myself, a whole new closet to store my own clothes in and a remote control I didn’t have to share; surely something I’d dreamt about as a child but when that time came, I was miserable. I was lonely; and when I looked out across the moonlit fields, at the Tree that had a whole hill, open sky and private pasture to Itself, the Tree looked lonely, too. 
It sat in complete peace, like an old and faithful friend, as I stared blankly at It through wet and bloodshot eyes in 2007 after driving home from Washington, DC after learning we lost Granddad
The Growing Tree sat patiently when I said goodbye as I moved away to Purdue, then away to Washington, DC - unsure of when I’d return. But wouldn’t you know, that old Tree was still sitting there, patiently, when I came home from my east coast adventures. 
It never left; I did. 

And It was there just last weekend, when I traveled back to the homestead with a family and baby of my own. 

Looking back, I had a terribly hard time when Luke left for college. I finally had a house to myself - and all of Mom and Dad’s attention - which, could have been considered a blessing or a curse at 17. I hated the fact that I had to ride to school, battling snow drifts on Sugar Grove Road, alone. I hated that I was now getting  to the barn at 5:00am, rather than 5:30am Monday-Friday, because we were one man short - and he was the one who gave all the rinsing and blowing directions! I hated how lopsided the dinner table felt with four when Laura left, and now three with Luke gone. 
Mostly, I just hated the change. 
Seeing my difficulties, Mom bought me a framed picture that simply had the word “Change” on it. It showed one lone tree, changing through out the seasons. At every angle, the tree beautifully transformed...

Instantly, I had peace in my heart. How ironic Mom had found a picture of a Changing Tree, that was nearly identical to my own Growing Tree - that she knew nothing about. 

Growing Tree

Changing Tree

Today, the Growing Tree is still there, as strong and beautiful as ever. 

The fall outs at BSG still happen. 

The tears still fall, only not as often, and over completely different matters.

The “Changing Tree” still hangs in the corner of my bedroom where I used to lay my head, gathering dust along with other pieces of Laura and I’s teenage years. 

It’s comforting to know that when I go back home, and our shared bedroom has been turned into a make-shift-fairy-tale-dress-up room, the memories aren’t all gone. I can still stand at the window and look across the land and see the constant, silently supportive, Growing Tree. 
And to me, that is peace enough. 


  1. Very beautiful. Those mama's always know just what we need :)

  2. Thanks, Lindsay, for sharing this intensely personal story. It moved me to tears. Reading it, I thought about my own daughters and how the dynamic changed when my oldest went off to college this past fall and how precious the time with my youngest will be before she leaves in a few years. The table will no longer be lopsided, but it will be lonely.

  3. Love love love this post! Great pictures and writing Lindsay!!

  4. Lindsay,
    Thank you so much for this amazing story and pictures. I got cold chills reading about your tree!!! You truly have a gift!
    Ann Day