I have a delightful little garden. It is filled with daylilies, astilbes, hellebores, goose neck loosestrife, vinca, hosta, caladiums, azaleas, hydrangea and more. But my favorite element is a gnarled, pitted, dying, “junk tree” called a boxelder.
Arborists dismissively describe my favorite tree as a wild boxelder, a messy junk tree. When I ask them to trim off the dead branches, they survey it with their arms folded and reply. “Don’t waste your money on it. You need take this down.”
But I will keep it as long as I can.
Its trunk tells its story, tree cankers surround it as a reminder of the storms that lashed through it; the viruses, bacteria, insects, and mold that tried to destroy it and the lichen that coats its dead branches.
And while it probably started out as a junk tree; it is now a magnificent, intricate timber statue. Its complexity tells the story of the slings and arrows that it battled.
Sort of like us. We all bear scars. Some of ours were caused by sharp blows to our psyche, perhaps while we were growing up. Others were caused by people who hurt us. Other cankers grew slowly surrounding a wounded area and building a bark fortress as protection, like chronic illnesses and mental breakdowns. Still other cankers encase deep wounds that have left a significant scar; like death or loss.
Each of these assaults have made this trunk more intricate, more heroic, more interesting. To me, it is now a work of art.
Unlike my tree, most of our scars are invisible. We can’t point to them like I can to the cankers on my tree. Some we conquered; others we manage; and some will never heal. But all of these have built a magnificent, complicated being, much more interesting than the original tiny saplings.
I love the rough power of this tree. I love how it has resisted and survived and I do not want to end its life ignobly with an electric saw.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.