Planting Hope

I received ten flowering trees yesterday that the Arbor Day Foundation gifted me when I sent a donation. (It wasn’t really a donation, because I only sent the money to get the trees.) If you have ever responded to such an offer, you will understand the irony of the term “tree.” These seedlings might someday be trees, might even be the beginning of a small forest in my yard, but for now, they are nothing but skinny little twigs between six and twelve inches long with barely a growth that could be considered a root.

I’ve planted seedlings from the foundation before, and not one ever grew to babyhood, let alone achieved grown-up-tree status, but even knowing that, I sent the money. I figure I wasn’t out anything except my donation, and maybe not even that if the foundation really does plant trees with at least some of the money they receive.

Of course, these “trees” came when there is no way I would take a chance on injuring my knee further by digging holes, so I considered not planting them, but a teenager a few houses away agreed to do the work for me. That was a double blessing, not just because having someone else plant them saved my knee, but also perhaps because the trees will not immediately realize who their caregiver will be. And maybe, just maybe, when that realization dawns, one or two of them will decide they like it here anyway.

Even if none of the seedings live very long, it’s the thought that counts. Planting trees is like planting hope — hope for a future, and a more beautiful future at that.

And all of us right now can use a bit of hope.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.


8 Responses to “Planting Hope”

  1. Sam Sattler Says:

    I’ve only ever had one such tree live to maturity despite the fact that I’ve planted dozens of them over the years.

    I literally plucked a barely-sprouted acorn from my flower bed one spring about 40 years ago, stuck it in a pot, and eventually moved it into the backyard of our house. It is now one of the largest Oak trees in the whole neighborhood – and I’m glad I don’t live in that house anymore because it completely dominates the yard.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Wow! What a story. If these trees grow to maturity, I won’t have a yard, but I suppose I could trim them like they do orchards, and keep them small. But the chances of that happening aren’t very great. There are some locusts that plant themselves, and I’m considering keeping them if possible. And then there are the elms that were cut down and now think they are bushes. I was going to try to get rid of them, but considering all the things I plant that don’t come up, maybe I should just keep them.

  2. Estragon Says:

    Since we’re being anthropomorphic…

    I especially liked his comment about having to cut down a pair of close trees, because if you just take one down, the other will die anyway. Some days, I can really relate to that.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Very interesting! Now I wish I’d planted the pairs of trees together instead of mixing up the species. At least I will know if I get any other trees to plant them sort of close together to give them companionship.

  3. Joe Says:

    About 30 years ago when I was 15, my parents moved us to a bigger house. I’ve been a gardener for at least that long and we planted some Arbor Day tree seedlings, a maple, a pin oak and a honey locust. The pin oak died, but the other two grew monstrously large. In fact, the locust tree grew so big that it shades the entire house (which is good and has probably saved on energy bills) but drops simply tons of dark purple seed pods. The neighbor calls it the tree from hell. Last year an arborist was called to examine it to see why it was producing so much and apparently it’s stressed for some reason and that’s why it’s over-producing, as a survival mechanism. Whatever treatment was given, it has reduced the pods but not entirely. Maybe it’s now the tree from the first circle of hell rather than the ninth. 🙂

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      How cool that the seedlings grew! I’ll take hope from that.

      Honey locusts seed themselves in my yard, and if any ever sprouts where I want it, I will keep it, pods or no. (I don’t want any near enough to the house to cause a problem with the foundation or the roof. They do get tall!

  4. Carol Says:

    The story of one seedling that survived…

    Years ago when our children were in elementary school they were given tiny seedlings as part of a community project. I can’t recall any of those seedlings surviving…probably because the novelty wore off and they weren’t watered or fertilized. But decades later, when my hubby retired in 2003, the congregation held a retirement dinner for him. The theme was ‘woodsy’, focussed on having extra time to enjoy our remote cottage in the woods. There was a kraft paper ‘highway’ on the walls around the room, upon which the Sunday School children had added vehicles, paper trees, a canoe, etc., ending at a cabin in the woods. The choir gifted him with a beautiful handmade quilt made with fabric in an outdoor motif, and there was also a digital camera, and funds for a cruise.

    And at each place setting on our dinner tables was a seedling planted in a paper cup. I’m not sure what became of all the other seedlings, but my hubby nurtured his, calling it his “retirement tree”. It went from the little paper cup into a large foam one where it spent the winter in the house. Somehow, it didn’t get moved into the garden that next summer, so in the fall he transplanted it into a larger tub on the deck. It thrived there, and we began to take its presence for granted. After a few more years we realized it was getting too big for the tub and should be put out into the yard, but by then we thought our years in this house might be getting limited and if we moved he’d lose track of his tree. I think it was our son who suggested we should take it to the cabin and replant it there, where we and future generations of the family would always know its story. So that’s where it is. It doesn’t get much nurture now, but it doesn’t seem to mind the wilderness and drier Cariboo climate, and every summer and fall while we’re there for our holidays, my hubby makes sure it gets a few buckets of water from the creek. I have a photo I took a couple years ago, of him standing beside his six foot ‘retirement tree’ slowly growing its way into one day being a large fir tree. To the family it sort of represents my hubby’s life in church ministry. He never really retired because he’s still working part time all these years later!

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