I have always appreciated the beauty and grandeur of old, tall, solid trees, but not as much as now. We own 29 wooded acres on a piece of lake property here in my hometown in southwest Michigan. A couple of weeks ago a tornado ripped through those woods, and the only word I can think of for the result is “devastating.” Unbelievable destruction.

       No buildings were lost. No lives were lost. That, of course, is something to be thankful for. However, when I say no lives were lost, that isn’t really true. About fifty lives were lost – big, old, tall, straight, strong trees, with branches that reached a good thirty to fifty feet across – branches that also reached to the heavens as though to honor God. Oak trees. Maple trees. Beech trees. Pine trees. You name the Michigan species, we probably had it. We had probably one of the tallest pine trees in Berrien County. It stuck way up above all the other tallest trees on the property. There is no telling how old it was.

        That tree disappeared. We had to hunt for it. Our son finally found it lying in pieces down in the creek.

       I see old trees as kind of like old men. Human beings sprout from a tiny seed, just like oak trees sprout from little acorns, or like maple trees sprout from those fluttering little butterfly seeds that fall every spring and are swept off patios and driveways. Human beings grow and need to be nurtured, just like young trees need to be watered and pruned – or if they are in a forest, they struggle to make room for themselves amid the bigger trees. When trees reach their “teenage” years, they are very strong and full and beautiful, with solid roots that by then have taken a good hold, and with the ability to fight off diseases and vermin – just like human teenagers are strong and beautiful and healthy and able to fight off diseases and overcome injuries. Trees keep growing bigger and stronger, and I see those that are thirty and forty years old as getting wiser, like older people.

        Then comes the older trees – still big and beautiful, but with scars, perhaps from lightening, wind damage, disease that is trying to set in but has not quite killed the tree. A few branches die, but the tree itself keeps growing. That, too, is just like humans. We get old. We aren’t as beautiful and full and strong as we were. We have scars from surgeries and wear and tear. We have wrinkled skin. We lose our hearing. We might lose a few teeth. We lose our strength, and yes, we sometimes we keep growing! Just in the wrong directions! We get diseases that harm certain organs, but we are still alive. Some humans remain fairly strong and healthy into old age, as do some old trees, but the human, and the tree, will never be the same as when they were young.

       And just as it’s sad when an old human being dies after living a good, long life, it’s sad to see a tree die. The saddest of all is when a good, strong tree, whether a teenager, middle-aged, or very old, dies not from age, but from a force they cannot fight. Just think – a large, heavy vehicle can hit a tree and be completely demolished, while the tree is still standing there, unscathed. But then along comes Mother Nature, and …

        Wind can be an amazing, fearsome force. Humans can’t just push down a tree, not even a small one. Even taking down a tree with machinery is no easy feat. You can spend all day, or several days, cutting off branches first, then cutting down the trunk, then digging and pushing out the huge stump. It takes big, expensive equipment, several men, power saws, bulldozers, and it’s dangerous work. But wind can come along and destroy a mighty oak tree in seconds, ripping it right out of the ground. It can break off foot-wide branches like toothpicks and leave splintered wood sticking high into the air. God’s forces are so much more fearsome and powerful than anything man can create, including the atom bomb. How often have we heard that an earthquake or a volcano had the force of “several” atom bombs?

       Such a force swept through our woods. My husband has worked on these trees, culling out the bad ones, saving the most beautiful ones, for 46 years, and in one swoop, a wind came along and destroyed most of his hard work. What is left is something that will take much more than one man with a chain saw to clean up. But the saddest thing I see in all those big, old, beautiful trees lying uprooted, is the vision of old men who have gone to their graves.

        Hope comes with the fact that next spring those fluttery maple seeds and those acorns and whatever seeds come from other trees will find their way into the earth again. They will sprout, and the cycle will start all over again, just like with human beings. But my husband and I literally “grieve” for the loss of so many of those big, old, strong, spectacular trees that were lost one night to a force they couldn’t handle. I now have greater respect for the power of Mother Nature and the things men can’t – and never will - control.

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