When we moved to our acreage six years ago, we were excited to find oak trees on our property. Sixteen of them. Large healthy trees. After getting to know some of our neighbors, we found out that someone's grandparents had planted the main tree in 1910. That's 110 years ago! Then a generation or more later, that family planted another 15 oak trees - black oak.
Black oak trees reach 50 to 60 feet in height, have an open crown, and a tall, straight trunk. They are commonly considered slow-growing. However, on a fertile site with adequate moisture, after a couple of years establishing their roots, they can grow two to three feet a year. That's after waiting a few years doing things that nobody sees. There's no impressive evidence of growth for years!
I think of the people that brought the acorns from England. They were full of hopes and dreams. They carefully planted their acorns - and waited. But, it wasn't passive waiting - they needed to provide adequate moisture and make sure that nothing harmed the tender shoots that started growing. They nurtured those for years before any significant growth happened. All this work so that someday, maybe, they'd have shade - hopefully before their kids left home!
We tried planting some acorns - thinking to do the same. We nurtured them, and the seedlings survived for two years, and then… they were gone - eaten or frozen, not sure, but after all that work - we're back at square one.
Sometimes life is like that.
Often in my life, I am working on things - new habits, new thoughts, and ideas. And, from the outside, it doesn't look like anything is happening.
George Eliot said, "Our consciousness rarely registers the beginning of a growth within us any more than without us: there have been many circulations of the sap before we detect the smallest sign of the bud."
Like those acorns that got planted and then spent two years developing roots, we need people to keep tending us, nurturing us, providing the right environment for growth, even if it doesn't look like growth is happening.
And then, one day, we'll look back and see how much we've grown. But we only notice when we look back. The growth happens so slowly that in the day-to-day, it's hard to detect. But, if we continue to be nurtured, that growth continues until we reach maturity. And then, we become shade for others that are sprouting and putting down roots. We help create conditions for their growth.
I encourage you to get to know a few people well enough to be part of their growth journey - nurture them as they're developing roots, be the voice of encouragement when they're growing. Often they'll have strengths that can help nurture your root building and a perspective that may encourage your growth as well.
That oak tree at my house is a testament to the faithful nurturing that leaves lasting results. I doubt those first homesteaders imagined when they planted that oak tree, that, 110 years later, families would still be making memories under its branches. I doubt they knew when they planted that acorn and tended it while it rooted deep, that those roots would keep the tree standing firm in 135 km/hour winds. I doubt they knew that their story would be passed down from generation to generation - an inspiration for growth.
Gail Sheehy said, "If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living."
Are you really living?