I live on the ground floor of an apartment building facing a six lane parkway. There is constant traffic flashing by, with the swooshing sound of engines and howling cries of ambulances on emergency runs. In the winter time it looks barren except for the rows of trees along the bicycle path stretching all the way to the beach.
If not for those trees I would find myself engulfed in the sight of all that hurried movement. Instead I gaze at the feast that nature presents in new ways with every passing season. I am also blessed with a luxurious lawn under my kitchen window cared for by a loving Italian gardener. I once told him of my appreciation for the care and beauty he was bringing to the outside of our building and certainly into my world. As a reply, he planted a little tree that I could see from my window.
That little tree has grown, but not much. I sometimes wonder if it isn’t intimidated by the gigantic pine tree shielding the front of the house next door. Or perhaps it looks small in comparison. But with every season that little tree goes through a transformation that fills me with awe. In the springtime the tiny knobs covering its barren branches turn to emerald as delicate leaves appear to clothe the little tree in its new attire. Then in the summer its mane of green leaves shelters the multi-colored flowers circling its trunk. When the first chill of autumn makes itself felt, my little tree turns its lovely crown into a dazzling jewel of gold and russet tones as if glowing with pride at having captured the sunshine. Then one by one the leaves fall, gracing the lawn with a carpet of muted color until the little tree stands naked and bare. But I imagine its twisted little branches reaching upward to the sky as if in prayer. It will stay for months in meditation reminding me that nature also prays for life to be rekindled.
This winter however, a most disastrous event took place. The East coast of the United States was hit with a hurricane that destroyed most of the houses along the shore. The sand from the beach at the end of my parkway covered the streets. Windows were smashed, cars overturned, trees ripped from the safety of cement sidewalks.
I witnessed a perfect storm called Sandy. I watched her from my window as the wind slapped the buildings and the houses along the street. An eerie emptiness hovered along the parkway, as if the cars had floated away, suddenly replaced by ambulances and fire trucks, their sirens shrieking into the air.
I watched with trepidation as the delicate frame of my little tree bent under the wind, and feared it could not resist this force testing its courage. I imagined its beauty gone, its festive attire gracing the seasons, its celebration of life even in winter with its branches sending up prayers to the heavens.
Well, my little tree made it! While many of the bigger trees had surrendered and fallen, their enormous roots ripping the sidewalks into tatters, my little tree had trembled and shaken but remained whole. Was it sad that the big pine tree in front of the house next door had fallen? I walk by and see giant roots splayed on the grass. But a fragrance of pine remains, a reminder of its former beauty and grandeur. Meanwhile, my little tree stands proud, and seems a bit taller as it awaits the spring. And I can’t help but think that this little tree is so much like me.