When I was a little girl we lived in the northern Delaware area. I was lucky enough to be able to travel to southern Delaware to the beaches. If you don’t know Delaware it is a very unique state. We have beaches on the ocean and the bay. We border the Atlantic Ocean and several bays and rivers. It’s a great state because it varies so much. Up north you find more evergreens, different kinds of soil, rocks and even some hills. Down south it’s sandy and flat! At one time almost all of Delaware was heavily wooded. Most of southern Delaware was marsh and trees. People have changed the landscape of our small state so that it is unrecognizable. We filled in marshes, added tax ditches (which are like drains) and voila! Farmland. We mowed down trees and built roads to create lazy little fishing towns and resorts. We created lakes and rivers for people to place their vacation homes.
As a girl when we drove down to the beach I was fascinated with the trees. Of course there was not much more to look at on our drive back then. Trees and clouds mostly. But what was interesting was how different they looked from up north. Of course where I lived was heavily populated so we had mostly big old trees. But on the ride to the beach there were these dense forests of tall, skinny trees. They were so different to me from what we had at home.
In the summer they had some leaves, though not a ton. In the winter when we made the trip they were naked. The trees looked like pictures I had seen of Don Quixote. Reaching toward the sky with their spindly, weak, flailing arms.
I remember asking my dad about them. For some reason they fascinated me. He told me they were the kind of trees that grew in forests. That they would not survive alone like an oak tree. An oak trees trunk and branches grew strong to survive winds and storms. But these trees were fragile alone. They would break under the weight of snow or winds. They got their strength from each other. With other trees like them surrounding them they could survive the winds and storms. They were stronger in numbers, moving in unison to the wind, flaunting their thin branches at the rain.
One year there was a terrible ice storm. The trees were so heavy with water when they froze that many of them simply crumbled to the ground. Even their community of other trees could not save them from the weight of the ice pulling them down. Destroying them. The ice altered our landscape. Now we had bare areas where the trees had succumbed to the storm. Their strength was not enough to save them.
I forgot about those trees and my love of them for a long time.
Today, I’m reminded of them. Their strength, their fragility. How much they needed each other. How alone they were weak, prone. But together they were strong, thriving. That even something as simple as ice can still destroy things.
But they all grew back, stronger. It took a while. But the forest is there. Standing strong together. Watching over the animals it shields. Standing sentry, waiting for the next season.
I am reminded, of course, because of the recent shooting in Connecticut. It’s so heartbreaking to me to even think about. I’ve been fighting off tears for days feeling guilty for even being so touched by this. I don’t know them! They weren’t my family! That’s not my town! But then I saw the trees. And I was reminded how much we need each other. How we have strength in numbers. How something can destroy us for a moment but then we grow back. Stronger.
The truth is that we are not old oaks with thick trunks. We are all skinny, tall trees waving in the wind. Needing the protection of others to stay strong. Faltering when we are alone.
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