Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking Back to 2009: Lessons from a Cedar

Trey Smith
Original Post Date: 2/24/09

Catty-corner from our house in back stands a vacant home built in the latter portions of the 1800s. It's owned by a local real estate person who had started to fix it up, but dropped the project in mid-course. So, it's not a derelict; it's simply old and vacant.

The piece of property the house sits on is gorgeous. There is a sloping yard ringed by several large majestic trees. One of these trees -- the 3rd tallest cedar -- has struggled mightily with our many storms. It has lost two main limbs and numerous branches. During the major storm of December 2007, it took, what I thought at the time, would be its fatal blow.

The largest limb from the midpoint was ripped from the tree. Not only was the limb thrown to the ground, but a huge chunk of the main trunk came with it! When I surveyed the damage, I was certain that the entire tree would come crashing down the next time we had even a modest windstorm.

Though we've had several windstorms since, including a small one last night, the tree remains standing. I gaze up at it every night before I fall asleep and every morning as I awaken. I've even gone over to talk to it several times. What do I say? I thank it for its powerful message.

Life isn't always pretty. Storms are natural and each one can take a little or a lot from the best of us. As we age, we each resemble this majestic cedar -- we sustain nicks, cuts and gouges. But if we follow our path (as this cedar follows its own), we can continue to stand strong despite our less than wholeness.

We can still provide shelter for others. We can still nourish the community. Most of all, we can stand as testament to Tao, that mystery of life.

Inevitably, the mighty cedar will one day die just as each of us shall die. Trees, however, continue to generate and sustain life around them. As they decay, they enrich the soil which brings forth new life.

We can only hope that our deaths do the same.


  1. So how is that tree doing?
    In the Confucius Temple in Beijing, there are astonishing cedars that are really old, hundreds and hundreds of years, all gnarly and awesome. (I sound like a surfer.) I like the place a lot.

    "One Cypress tree is known as the "Touch Evil Cypress" (Chu Jian Bai), that has been made famous by folklore through the ages. Its name derives from a story from the Ming Dynasty that when a famously corrupt official was passing by, the tree knocked off his hat, and since then people have thought this particular tree could distinguish between good and evil." (from wikipedia)

    Just thought this was an interesting story to complement your neighbor's tree. Who knows what trees know?

  2. That cedar is still going strong!


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