There is a tree near the Nickel Bridge and Byrd Park in Richmond. After a storm in June of 2016, it looked ragged, and broken. All the trees around it had leaves and branches.
This one looked singed by lightning– alone and naked. Among it’s grove mates, it had been devastated. It had a few branches but they were stripped of foliage and it had a curious formation at the top. A heart. I could not even imagine how lightning could carve a sculpture like that out of the top of a tree.
It looked dead. In fact, I thought that if they did cut it down, I would want that top part. I took a picture and made it a #griefheart.
We walked to Arts in the Park today, a Richmond tradition, and I walked by the tree. It had changed dramatically.
At first, I wondered if I had the right tree. I looked up and saw the damaged limb, the heart that always has my heart. Although well covered at this point, I could see the black residue still from the lightning strike two years earlier. I can see the heart part more clearly in the winter, before it leafs out.
You can’t see the heart here in this picture although I did see it finally with my naked eye.
What struck me was that it that it had regrown new limbs and is now thriving. It had rebounded. I can tell you that last summer, it looked iffy still.
You see this tree and I have a relationship
I was coaxing it back to health in my head, hoping it would survive. For a year after I took that first picture, I watched it. Waited. Hoped it would survive.
I even thought about wrapping a note around it with a picture of the original #griefheart saying that if they removed or chopped down the tree, I’d like to have the top part. Totally crazy idea.
Even crazier, I didn’t do it because I thought it would discourage the tree. That it would undermine its capacity to come back to life and feel defeated.
I kept thinking one day I’d drive by and it would be gone because they had chopped it down.
But it fought back this spring and although a bit rangy in terms of symmetry, it was otherwise flourishing. That made me smile. And cry just a little.
It made it. It fought to survive a serious setback. The wound still there hidden under the layers of new growth.
It took the tree two years to come back to life. Recovery was not instant.
That’s what I want you to know. No matter how bad it gets, how beat down you are, how bad the devastation, tomorrow is another day, next week is a new week, next year a new opportunity. At first, it feels insurmountable and overwhelming.
Just like that tree, you can come back after adversity. It won’t be easy, or fast. Your wound can heal. It will still be there but new life will surround it. And you will be stronger.