When I left my first teaching job in Ogden, Utah for a closer-to-home job, the staff gave me a gift certificate from a local nursery so we could use it to help beautify our unfinished yard in our new home. I had a difficult time saying good bye to my colleagues at Mt. Ogden Middle School, and wanted to have a reminder of their love and support, so I asked Brett to pick out a beautiful blue spruce with the certificate. We planted this little tree in the corner of our back yard and watched it grow. Every time I looked out my window and saw the majestic symmetry of the small evergreen, my thoughts went back to those wonderful teachers and support staff who really showed me what my new teaching career was all about.
Here is a photo from May 2004, and you can see our little tree just over Abbey's shoulder. Unfortunately, this doesn't show the perfection that the tree started with because a winter storm had already broken off two delicate branches with heavy snow.
Our tree has grown quickly over the last fourteen years, and in spite of the harsh conditions of Utah summers, Utah winds, and the neglect it has endured, it stands today. But it is definitely a much different tree now. When we first planted it, the blue spruce had a perfection about it that I was so proud of. If there had been a photo of the perfect evergreen in the dictionary, it would have been of my little tree. Even though it survived some of the big wind storms at the beginning, as it grew, our tree became more susceptible to the monstrous winds and winters of Bountiful, Utah.
I really noticed the toll our tree has taken when we came home last summer after living overseas for four years. The 2011 winter had brought a dangerous wind storm in December that tore down fences, flipped shingles everywhere, ripped trees out of the ground with their roots, and prompted a county wide disaster clean-up on a Sunday with church meetings being cancelled. We had to watch that storm, with its 100+ mph winds, play out on the internet in Qatar, and we prayed that we would still have a house standing when it was all over. Thankfully, our house had damage that could be repaired, but our precious tree in the corner had been unearthed. The photos our son sent to us showed the naked roots above ground that were as vulnerable as a compound fracture. The tormented tree lay prone on its side. The fence was gone too and made the tree all the more hopeless and exposed. The work of repair and clean-up would have to wait until summer when we could orchestrate the monumental task, so the leader of our back yard forest had to bide its time. I gave it up for kindling and prepared myself to watch it be chopped up and hauled away.
It is difficult to see in the photo, but this is one of the insurance photos that shows the fence gone and our tree laying on its side with the roots exposed. So sad!
When we finally returned to Utah in June 2012, standing next to my tree was even worse than looking at the insurance pictures, but remarkably the tree was still growing. I don't know how the spring had won over this hopeless cause, but life was definitely left in my Mt. Ogden memory tree. We didn't know what to do. If we tried to straighten the tree and replant the naked roots, would it die? What if we removed the exposed roots to make it look more "normal"? Would it survive the makeover?
Here you can see the exposed roots of the tree.
Well, sometimes there are too many decisions to be made, so some go ahead and make themselves. Our tree went ahead and kept growing while we kept working out the other issues. Maybe it was our way of letting nature repair itself or not wanting to face the inevitable demise of the tree. It wasn't my perfect tree anymore, but it was alive and it was thriving. There were new knobby starts on the ends of the branches. The exposed roots were settling into their new environment and standing firm. So the other repairs and decisions took priority.
When fall arrived, the growth of our tree was remarkable, and instead of growing in the horizontal direction that the top had been pushed to, there were inches and inches of growth shooting at a 90 degree angle for the vertical sunshine. This was one tenacious tree. I could only stand in awe and take pictures of something that would not be stopped or deterred from its mission - to grow.