There’s a mimosa coming up in my iris bed, a tulip tree growing out of the foundation on the north side of my house, and various maple and black walnut trees poking through shrubs around my front porch.
These trees, along with assorted thistle, blackberry brambles, and weeds, do this every year in an attempt to reclaim my small half-acre yard as a field. So far, their hostile takeover ways are winning. I cut them down, only to have them reappear even larger the following year.
I’m not a very good gardener even without the challenge of these invasive foes. My gardening style basically consists of throwing plants in the ground, watering them a few times, and then declaring that they’re on their own.
It’s survival of the fittest for the green stuff around my home. This is probably why the weeds and junk trees have an edge over anything I’ve ever planted on purpose. These plant-pests are tenacious and unstoppable, determined to live and grow for another season. No matter what I throw at them, they come back, year after year, stronger than ever.
They are not at all like me.
I easily come unglued these days, especially after seemingly endless assaults from this never-ending recession. After struggling against an impossible situation for four years now, my weapon of choice lately is surrender: I rage, I cry, and then I give up. Whatever happens, happens. Why continue to fight an impossible battle?
Just once, I’d like to feel as if I were ahead in the game instead of constantly feeling as if I can’t even make it to the ballpark. I’d like to know what it feels like to not live on such a dangerous knife edge all the time, precariously perched, mere inches from disaster. Most days, I’m shrunken and diminished, tired of the same old circumstances, yet powerless to change them. It’s difficult to believe that I’ll ever know the feeling of security again.
I am here, but I’d rather, with all of my heart, be over there.
As I pondered new and different ways to kill the junk trees once and for all, an unexpected appreciation for them flooded over me. In spite of every attempt at destroying them, they have continued to thrive in those exact same spots for years now. Perhaps rather than looking at them as adversaries, I should view them as inspirations. Certainly I could stand to have more of their kind of tenacity in my own life, especially when confronted with difficult challenges.
My son Evan saw me taking a photo of one of the junk trees and asked why I was doing that.
“You know how these trees keep coming up year after year even when we cut them down?”
“I was thinking about how resilient they are and how they survive in spite of our efforts at eliminating them.”
Evan thought about this for a moment.
“They’re a lot like people,” Evan explained. “We go through stuff but we still survive. We’re all junk trees on the inside.”
We are all junk trees on the inside – inherently flawed, yet eternally strong and hopeful. We may not be able to change our current situation or our present place in the world, but the drive is still there to push through the dirt and lift ourselves up toward the sun.