I remember how much I pitied the tree with no name that grew on the side of the house we had just moved into. It was “on the bubble” as they say in Hollywood, more a large stick than a living thing.
When we dug up the former owner’s gnarled rosebush, his pygmy date palms, and his tired banana plants, I felt sad for a moment —but I knew they had to go.
The tree with no name grew on the side of our new house where there was no light, and only rotten boards and broken glass, and a rusted axe, and an old brake drum and one day, to get my attention, it touched my arm with a branch and said, “Peter, please, give me a chance.”
And so I did. And the tree with no name grew in spite of there being no light, and in spite of the glass, and the axe, and the brake drum, which I eventually got rid of when the packing boxes were empty, and the children had settled into their breakfasts and their squabbles and their lives.
The tree with no name suddenly grew tall one summer, as did my youngest son who slept in the room with windows that looked out onto its uppermost branches.
As summer passed, the tree waxed tall and strong and its branches touched the windows just beside my son’s bed. And the two of them grew together, and though I loved my son much more, I also loved the tree with no name.
And my son, by then very tall, went away, as did my other children, and the tree with no name, sprouted beautiful new leaves and grew taller still.
In the mornings when it was very quiet, (for there were no more children’s morning noises) I would look at the tree with no name to be reminded that there is life and abundance even where there appears to be loss.
And when we’d been in the house fifteen years, we fixed the soft spots on the wood floor and changed the paintings in the living room and took down a wall to add openness, and of course, we painted.
The men who painted the house knew nothing about us, or what we loved and dreamed about through our many years there. They wanted only to get back to their own houses and to eat and to drink and to play with their own children.
And so they sought to make time smaller and smaller. Their work was not their pleasure, it was their livelihood, and so in seeking to make time small, they did foolish things. In their haste the men took their paints and their stains and their poisons, and poured them in the dirt next to the tree with no name.
And this morning it is winter, the rainy season; the time when all plants rejoice and when those that lose their leaves, wait in stillness, listening for the soft sounds of their buds being born. And those plants that keep their leaves rejoice in their own fullness, and their verdant natures.
Not so this winter, not so for the tree with no name. It’s staggers like a boxer, refusing to go down. Its blood is tainted; its roots have sucked up the men’s poison.
But a tree is not a man, its pallid leaves don’t blame the roots; roots do what they do. Nor does its trunk blame the roots; roots do what they do. Nor do its branches blame the roots, they say only, “roots do what they do.”
The tree with no name doesn’t blame the men either. It knows that men do what they do —and so, even as it stands dying, it whispers, “I forgive you.”