I am eager to get out and walk the grounds at the retreat center with the garden society volunteers. This group of dedicated women and I have been together for many years. Ten years ago when I began the mission to create gardens of prayer and memorial on the campus, I had not anticipated a disabling condition. The challenges of my inabilities are affecting all of us in our little society. They are helping me to adjust and picking up, literally, where I cannot.
Winter brought the blessing of time for considering how my role must change. It was a typical winter and cold temperatures and seasonal snow kept me indoors.
We experienced a particularly heavy snow late this winter as spring neared. In late afternoon a cold rain came and began to freeze. A little over an hour later snow began to fall and it was beautiful, forming big sticky snowflakes that came down fast. In combination with the freezing rain the snow created a slushy coating encircling the branches of shrubs and trees. Throughout the afternoon I gazed out different windows and watched as the hardwoods fattened up, the circumference of each tip and branch plumping white. The evergreens took on the greatest accumulation of the thick snowy blanket and looked like an over exuberant child had sprayed them with Reddi-wip™.
With the continuing snow, in a matter of only a couple hours, limbs began to bend, hanging low from the weight. During the night the winds began to pick up and soon came the sound of cracking limbs, then the deadened thud as they fell to the ground.
When the light of morning came I could see in my neighbors’ yards the cascade of broken evergreen limbs. When a higher limb broke off, it landed on the next and the weight caused this limb to break. Like dominos they landed on the next, that too broke, and all piled against the tree and ground.
The Eastern White Pines showed the worst of the damage. The wood of this pine is soft and breaks easily. Their long graceful limbs, laterally branched, readily collected the heavy snow atop their fanning needles. It wasn’t until two days later when I went out for a walk through the neighborhood that I realized the magnitude of the damage.
Shallow rooted Box Elders along the lake were toppled by the weight of the encrusting ice and snow. The frozen ground would not release the trailing roots and the small exposed root mass looked odd compared to the size of the tree. Several maples in the area had massive limbs broken off. One relatively young maple lost its central leader and the remaining limbs formed a bowl. The downed limbs that blocked traffic had been cut and pulled to the ditch lines; wood chips still littered the blacktop.
Every Eastern pine along my route was damaged. Every yard in the area had anywhere from a few limbs on the lawn, to a whole side of an evergreen collapsed down on itself. The damage was extensive, but oddly no one tree was beyond salvaging…at least not to this gardener’s eye.
When a tree is damaged by storms, I do not assume it had lost its functionality and immediately cut it down. I would remove what was damaged, pruning it towards a future of new growth. I know as a gardener that with proper pruning damage is often no longer visible with time.
Even though I’ve been damaged by the storms of life, I still have purpose with the garden society. With the loving help of these volunteers, we will all grow in new directions.