About a dozen years ago, I planted three tiny pine trees along the rugged path up the mountain from our house in Washoe Valley.
I spaced the trees about 30 yards apart, using a pickaxe to break through the rock and sun-hardened Nevada dirt. They had been given to Sherry and me by an elderly friend and mentor, Frank Tate, during his last visit to our home. They weren’t particularly pretty, nor sturdy and, my guess, they had been blue light specials at Kmart.
At first, it was a bit of a nuisance carrying a brimming bucket up the incline to water each one. I blame human nature that the highest pine received the least water. It quickly began to turn brown and, within a month, it was only a crooked stick stuck in the ground.
The middle tree went the following winter. My hunch is a deer took care of the little green sprouts.
For some reason, I began to equate my own longevity with the survival of the fragile remaining sapling, the one closest to home. I tediously dug a saucer around it to better capture and retain the water I carried up each evening. I pounded three metal poles around the base and looped a security rope around them. Each winter, I dug my buddy out from the heavy snowfalls.
The Ponderosa Pine and me have been friends now for over a decade. I wish I could say it quickly grew to be a staunch and strong tree, showing characteristics of its namesake, but that would be an overstatement. After the first few years, it had yet to reach knee-high, and its emerald-green needles only grew on one straggly branch.
It was around year seven that my Ponderosa Pine finally found its own water source and began to sprout against the rugged rock. I felt relieved. My friend and mentor Frank had told me long ago that security and personal growth are most often found close to home. I connected my Ponderosa Pine to my own struggles and successes. I recognized how fortunate I had been to have a home base, to have people who always cared for me and to eventually find my own soothing water source deep within my being.
I don’t think it was necessary, but I brought a bucket of water up to my tree last evening and slowly poured it into the sun-hardened dirt. The Ponderosa Pine is exactly my height now, and almost as broad. I thought to myself, “Look out world, we’re going to be around for a long time.”
Update, May 25, 2016:
My little Ponderosa Pine went crazy the last few years, almost doubling in size. I now call it Frank in honor of my deceased friend and donor.
As for me, I haven’t doubled in size, but I’m doing just fine.
About the author
Since founding The Change Companies® in 1988, Don has worked with approximately 150 agencies and corporations, tailoring Interactive Journals to serve those working and participating in the caring professions. His collaborative efforts in substance use, justice services, impaired driving, healthcare and education have consistently focused on helping individuals explore the process of positive personal change.
Earlier in his career, Don worked in many industries, including hotel management, publishing, higher education administration and healthcare business development. Along the way, he created numerous companies, experiencing both successes and failures. Many of these life lessons and joyous observations found their way into Don’s recent book, The Adventures of Binder-Man.
Don is most proud and appreciative of the outstanding employees who have shaped The Change Companies® for over two decades.
Word of the Week
Estanche was an Old French word used to describe something as “watertight,” such as a sailing vessel. This seafaring strength eventually expanded to describe anything of sturdy construction, including one’s principles. Another offshoot of the same French root is the verb “stanch,” meaning “to stop the flow of.” Use the adjective and verb form together, and you could have a “staunch individual, who stanches his tears.”