Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 27 seconds

The Tree

The Tree

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year just occurred again. The 10 days following leading up to Yom Kippur is a very important time for reflection, introspection and atonement. The New Year always allows us to start fresh and be added to the book of life, another way of asserting that we wish to be healthy and happy in the New Year along with all of our loved ones and friends. Having just finished this holiday season for the 56th time, I had an experience that made it real to me. What started as a curious situation with a sick tree, turned into a life lesson.

My Arbor Day tradition

I planted a crab apple tree on the last Friday in April of this year as part of my annual Arbor Day tradition. I watered it and took very good care of the tree but it didn’t seem to be taking off like I thought it should. The crab apple tree came in a burlap ball tied with green twine and it looked wonderfully symmetrical and happy when we put it into the ground. Could it be bad soil? Was it missing some vital nutrient? Was there something with the amount of light it was or wasn’t getting?

Through the year, I fed it with some of the compost we create at home and watered it religiously. Concerned about how it was doing, I asked an arborist and horticulturalist Eric Hansen who happened to be one of my clients to take a look. “It looks anemic to me, as I described its signs and symptoms, thin leaves, weak limbs, and just generally not thriving.

Like any practitioner he said, “Let me take a look” and he made a house call. Eric quickly identified the little cachectic tree correctly down to its genus and species. He stood silently while he inspected it, then he muttered where it was grown and how old it was. He pointed out a frost crack on the trunk, indicating it had had a hard season in its short life. “Those vertical cracks occur when we get an early freeze prior to the sap draining from the tree in fall”, he explained. Then he inspected the leaves and zeroed in on the base. That is when he had his ah-ha moment.

Here’s your problem!


The offending twine

Grab me a shovel and a knife he said. Like a surgical assistant, I sprang into action. “Have you ever seen trees that crack off at the base?” he asked. Probably but I had not paid attention. “Here is your problem!” he said matter-of-factly (an old favorite EMS line of mine) as we feverishly worked together clamoring at the base of the tree.

“The burlap sack is biodegradable but the twine is not.” I could see where the tree was trying to grow but the twine was holding it back at the base! “This can kill a tree easily,” he said. Sadly, I could see where growth had occurred below where the twine had been restricting the tree’s growth. I felt guilty and remorseful, how could I have been so cruel and negligent. What would my mom say?

After removing the twine and tossing it out, I felt a bit foolish for not having inspected the tree more closely upon planting it. That is when a huge feeling of relief came over me. No real harm done, according to Eric, “We caught it in time, Just wait till next year”, he said, “This baby is really going to take off.”

My life lesson

The follow morning, while sipping my second cup of coffee, I started to draw parallels in my life to that of the crab apple tree. Unleashed to achieve my potential to grow and prosper in my life is a very calming, inspired place to be. We’ll see how we do together in the coming years. I encourage all of my readers to look at your lives and see if you can find the twine at the base of your metaphorical tree trunk and release it.