TREES I: SIGNS OF HOPE
This is the first of three posts on trees. Part II will be posted on Arbor Day, and Trees III will be posted for Christmas 2013.
What does a pine tree in Japan have in common with an artificial pine tree in New York?
Last night many persons enthusiastically waved goodbye to Old Man 2012, wanting to bury the hard times he brought them between his birth and his demise.
Perhaps I received more bad personal news because I’m entering an advanced age group, and my peers are developing multiple health and maybe financial problems. However, one of the worst situations I’m hearing about is a young mother recovering from severe burns (the back story is much worse but not appropriate to share).
Global-wise are the continuing crises in the Mid-East—Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, Syria. Nationally man-made disasters, like Hurricane Sandy and the Sandy Hook School massacre,
The bombardment of such circumstances convince many that we are in the final days. Is it futile to hope for a 2013 that is brighter than 2012.
But, as the cliché tells us, hope springs eternal. Often it springs up unexpected and in a surprising manner. Below I present two such signs of hope.
TREE OF HOPE: JAPAN
The March 11, 2011 tsunami cost Rikuzentakata, Japan, destroyed seventy thousand waterfront pine trees in a grove along a two-kilometer coastal stretch. When all was said and done, only one pine tree, estimated to be two-hundred-sixty years old, survived the onslaught of the waves.
The eighty-nine foot tree was dubbed the miracle tree.
It came to symbolize hope.
Some persons made a pilgrimage to this solitary pine, this symbol of Japan’s tenacity.
It’s a place that stirs emotions according to an elderly worker who lost her son near the pine grove. She took her grandchildren to the tree as a way to remember him.
Alas, the tsunami’s effects eventually did the tree in. Within eighteen months the tree was dead from a slow, and fatal, salt-water poisoning caused by ocean water seepage into its roots.
In mid-September 2012 crews cut down the miracle tree that symbolized hope and gave local persons courage.
But it wasn’t done without the tree leaving a two-part legacy.
Its first legacy began when one-hundred persons watched workers cut the tree’s branches off while one-hundred persons watch. The tree trunk was dissected into four pieces which were sent to a factory to be hollowed out and treated with a preservative. The branches will be molded to make plastic replicas. A metal pole will become a tree support.
Its second legacy rests in the nine grafts currently growing on other trees.
People said a temporary goodbye to the tree with mixed feelings. They are looking forward to February 2013, when it is expected the tree of hope will return to its original place, albeit in a new form.
TREE OF HOPE: NEW JERSEY
Like the tsunami wreaked havoc on Rikuzentakata, Japan, Superstorm Sandy wrecked New Jersey community of Union Beach, a town with sixty-two hundred residents across Raritan Bay from New York’s Staten Island. A house on the bay front, literally cut in half by waves, is one of the defining images of the storm.
Tons of rubble containing the private possessions of its residents testified to the storm’s damage. One curb pile had an artificial Christmas tree sticking out of the rubble. It didn’t seem meaningful.
However, some people see possibilities within the impossibilities.
In early November, a local youth soccer coach, having traveled past the tree for three days, couldn’t resist plucking the bad-smelling tree from its waterlogged storage bag.
Setting it up in a vacant field he discovered he couldn’t get it to stand up straight in the stand he purchased. Thus, it tilts to the side. He posted a handmade sign next to the tree:
Dear Sandy: You can’t wash away hope. You only watered it so more hope can grow. Signed, Union Beach.
He watched, amazed, as grieving townspeople began trimming the tree with ornaments, some of which had personal messages of hope, defiance and recovery:
We believe! We have hope! We will recover!
We love Union Beach.
People started surrounding the tree a variety of items from driftwood pieces to toy trucks left by children. Soon a neighbor strung extension cords from his house to the tree so that lights could brighten the night.
It became a rare bit of encouragement in a depressing holiday season, an encouragement like no other.
“It’s become the sign of our hope, that life goes on and you move forward. It’s just amazing,” said resident Gigi Liaguno-Dorr.
What has offered you hope for the New Year? I invite you to respond in the comment box at the end of this post.