There are two trees directly behind my house. Let’s call them the older one and the young one.
The older one isn’t really that old in the life of a honey locust tree. But it was an adult when we moved in 22 years ago and it has the occasional dead branch to show it’s been around for awhile. Its two longest, strongest branches stick straight toward the house like two arms reaching, grasping for a grip on the gutters, roof tiles or the upstairs window that leads to my daughters’ old room. The canopy is lovely, with evenly spaced branches creating a cloud of leaves. From certain directions you’d never know what a connection this tree seems to feel for our home.
The young one is a pecan tree. We planted it the year after we moved in and for several years it was just a short straight stick in the ground that never died or branched out, but barely grew taller each year. Finally when it reached the height of a medium-sized child it sprouted branches and then it seems I blinked and it was fully grown, with well-spread branches just asking to be climbed, and a cloud of green leaves that hide its pecans so well that we usually don’t know they are there until the squirrels come and point them out to us.
The other day as I walked my dog, I reflected that despite the difference in age the two trees are close to the same size. The older one is a bit thicker in the trunk and has those dead spots, like a scattering of gray on its green head. The young one is a bit taller, strong and flexible, swaying easily in the breeze. If you look from just the right angle you can see its trunk leans away from the older one, but side branches from each tree reach out to touch in the middle, as if they are leaned in to listen.
As my dog and I wandered around the side of the house, I looked back at those two trees and thought that their life spans are not so different from human ones. They grow and make dramatic changes like we do from sprout to adulthood. Older trees, like those of us who are older, have some scars in their bark, some bit of drooping here and there, but are still spreading their branches wide in welcome. In the time it took the young one to sprout branches and reach for the sky, my daughters have done the same. Just like the young one, they stand tall and strong, leaning out to face the world, but I like to think that they still turn that listening ear toward home.