Saturday, May 17, 2008

Trees and Vines

I've been busy clearing the underbrush that is dead, scraggly, and otherwise impeding my view. Never being one who particularly enjoyed outdoor labor, I have recently discovered the joy of snapping dead branches, gathering rotted logs, and wrestling the persistent, suffocating vines that want to drag an otherwise healthy tree down.

I am fascinated by how strong those vines are, how they shoot down roots at every opportunity, and shoot up tentacles to climb the healthy trees, using them like a step ladder to reach higher than they could on their own. All in an effort to get to the highest point possible to receive the energizing rays of the sun but without a sturdy trunk to get there themselves. The vines remind me of someone drowning; grasping and clinging to whomever comes close and pushing them under so that they can reach the surface to breathe, while their savior is sacrificed.

The vines are covered in prickly thorns too. When I engage in a rousing tug of war with one, often I am injured by the thorns. Clearly they are there for that very purpose but they don't stop me. Nothing feels as good as winning that battle as a massive ball of prickly vines releases it's hold on the tree and comes tumbling down. It makes the scars worth it.

Gently, I help the tree stand up tall again.

Some are too weakened by the assault of the vine and the final fight to be free. I feel sad for them. 20 foot tall trees with their tops touching the ground in weakness. I prop them up against a nearby tree, give them an encouraging word or two and hope for the best. I've only given them a short reprieve. If they don't develop their own sturdy base to anchor themselves, then the vines will come back and overcome them.

Some are unaffected. The older trees with great round trunks and vast root systems shake off their vines easily. The vines are nearly dead and just barely hanging on. The give up easily and come down with minimal effort on my part. They really didn't need my help at all.

But some other young trees rebound taller and stronger than they were moments before. Skinny trunks right themselves while their leaves flutter happily in the spring breeze. Because of my work today, that many more trees are free to stand tall and can reach towards the sun's energy. They will grow stronger and next time the vines come creeping they won't get weighed down by them.

It's gratifying to know that my toil is clearing the view for all of us.

Photo: Arborvitae ("Tree of Life")

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