For the past thirteen years, I have lived in a home nestled by the shelter and shade of decade old trees reaching their limbs high towards heaven with branches draping sculpted leaves along the side of our yard. In winter, when those leaves fall to the ground, we are rewarded with shimmering silhouettes at sunset.
While the gumball trees cause us to sigh with their prickly round balls covering our street and causing havoc for mowing the lawn, there is a silent appreciation for their beauty.
More than a decade ago, we eliminated the kudzu that was strangling the trunks of our trees and watched in wonder as the tree limbs grew longer and stronger with each passing year.
There have been afternoons of swaying in the hammock, the top of my daughter’s head barely visible over the fabric stretched from one tree to the next. Her senior pictures were taken on the grassy hill that rose and fell before the forest, which also doubled as a makeshift sledding spot when snowfalls canceled school.
Now the trees are gone.
No more fall leaf piles to jump in.
No more silent snowy mornings filled with hushed reverence.
The trees have been destroyed.
It wasn’t a fire nor a natural disaster that changed the landscape beside our home. Rather, a large orange excavator and back hoe worked together in tandem to dig up roots, knock down trees, and haul them away, now a pile of discarded timber left to the side.
There was no letter in the mail. No phone call to receive. No visits to our home, not even a flyer left on our doorstep. Just a private message from a friend while I was halfway up the East Coast on vacation that the woods we have cherished for so many years would soon be gone.
No start date.
No end date.
Just imminent change.
We came home from our travels and watched in horror as the trees disappeared one by one. The sun, which once peeked its brilliance with slender rays through the vast forest by our side, now burned our doorknob to the touch in midday from the unobstructed heat.
The landscape that I’ve loved, that has held secrets and sleigh rides and squeals of childhood laughter, is now filled with beeping and rumbling and pounding morning into night.
Each day of the tree removal, I took photos, never quite knowing which day would be the last to gaze in awe at the majestic beauty encapsulating me. The wait was similar to watching my mother die – time standing still, time moving too fast.
We left for breakfast one Saturday morning with a line of trees standing tall behind our azalea bushes. We returned an hour later to only two trees standing. Our daughter cried out, “I’m so glad they didn’t take my favorite tree!” We shook our heads with the grief of an overprotective parent as we told her to hug her tree now, because it would surely be gone soon.
She hugged her tree.
We took final photos.
Then we stood to the side and watched as it was ripped away before our eyes.
I can’t articulate the depth of helplessness we felt, and continue to feel, as the landscape around us changes beyond our control. The emotions rise up and choke us at times, rendering us speechless in dismay. Our minds swirl with unanswered questions.
“What will happen to the deer who gracefully grazed in our backyard?”
“Where will the bunnies take refuge?”
“Will the hummingbirds visit again next summer or was this their final farewell?”
Change impacts so many things.
Everyone encounters seasons of change. Whether the predictable shift that looms ahead on the horizon or the unexpected upheaval that knocks us off our feet, change is a guarantee that life will look and feel different than before.
I have discovered that our perception of change directly impacts our attitude towards it. While I stood along the edge of our property line, staring at the now barren lot, my nine-year-old reminded me of the hope that resides in the unseen.
“Maybe a boy my age will move next door and I will finally have somebody to play with after school.”
“Look how pretty the sunset is now, Mommy.”
“When they make a road, I’ll be able to ride my bike through a whole new neighborhood.”
Sometimes it takes the insight of a child to catch a glimpse of joy in change.
I often look in the world around me for signs of confirmation that my thoughts are on the right track. This week as I was driving home, I saw a sign (literally!) that took my breath away:
Imminent change means letting go.
When was the last time you let go of something beyond your control? It’s tough to release those feelings of annoyance, hurt, frustration, and dismay. My hope is that as I sit on my back deck watching the excavators, motor graders, and wheel loaders completely change the landscape in my view, that I will be reminded of the good that can come from transformation.
To every thing there is a season…