The live oak boughs arch up and out from the rough gray-brown trunk which is sending its roots down deep below our yard. Vertical lines haphazard up the bark of the enormous base which four adults with outstretched arms cannot completely encircle. An arborist estimated the age of our oak to be about 130 years. Her solidness stands rear guard on a home who seems a mere teenager in contrast, even though the house was built almost 50 years before either of her current owners were. Resurrection fern is abundant on her outstretched limbs although describing the color of it eludes me today. The silvery green patches of fern aren’t the crispy desiccated brown of winter when rain is not as frequent; nor is it the fresh green it appears after our Florida downpours. .
I memorize her from my second story window while I tread a few miles on the rotating rubberized surface strategically placed in the air conditioned room. I know the limbs that arch over the driveway and I know the scar where we had to remove an appendage endangering the garage. The ferns hugging their perch tell me if it’s rained in the past 24 hours. The flit or skamper of wildlife reveals the variety of nests barely visible moments before. The azure sky I associate with Florida summer backdrops the dark browns and greens crawling above our lawn as the live oak limbs stretch out to soak up needed sunshine.
This tree has managed to sustain itself over the past 13-plus decades. She has seen more living here in Ocala than I can wrap my head around. I wonder which of her days were the most important? The day the acorn rolled from a nearby location and sat dormant through a winter? The afternoon when spring warmth cracked its smooth, capless side with the first sprout? The monsoon-wind hurricane days when she parted with a few small limbs? The torrid mid-summer days with equal parts roasting sunshine and sweltering heat that sent her roots deep and deeper? The months it took to scar over the susceptible areas opened by man or natural events? At times, she’s been covered in Spanish moss. Her limbs have been pruned for her own good. Her roots have occasionally been disturbed by new landscaping. Which event made her the strength and beauty I enjoy today?
Maybe your firstborn is a Kinder, darting across the Lively House play yard for the simple joy of moving. Possibly, your child is joining her siblings across the street on main campus and timidly looks for her chapel partner each Friday morning. After 11 years, our youngest closed the door to our family’s time on main campus as Ambleside High School moved to their newly renovated Wolf House. Each of the events and seeming non-events: from Campus meetings to the books selected during library time to finally mastering a new concept to bravely holding out a hand to a new friend…which of these days is the most important?
I think, maybe, all of them. And none of them. Each day brings something into our lives that can be used to grow us, our students, our families and classrooms into the strength and beauty possible for us. The idea that “all the things matter and none of the things matter too much” gives me the second wind after a hard day. Remembering it can generate the energy to make the routines that help make the weeks because they make the years. It seems like today is the only day I have to work with, so I’ll tackle it as best I can, with the energy and direction I have, and parent in the ways that makes today and tomorrow stand alone, in one cohesive stretch. Begin well. End strong. Do all the work in between.
If you need encouragement to keep at it, come stand under my tree. She is beautiful.