It looked like a stick. Skinny, fragile, and short. A stick. I remember my father digging a hole, and gently patting soil around the stick. He put up stakes and roped it off so as to not accidentally hit it when mowing the yard. He warned us kids to stay clear. It was the first tree he had planted at our home. The yard was a barren wasteland of dirt clods...and here was this stick...just sticking there.
Over the next five years the stick began to grow..it was joined by many other sticks..some made the cut..others were cut down. My father doted on his stick..and it responded by growing up...filling out...getting bigger. My father loved his stick, but he was worried..this stick refused to bloom. No matter what he did, it never produced a single flower. My father's stick was a Japanese Cherry Tree. I remember his watching the Cherry Trees blooming in Washington, DC. That should be what his stick was doing...it didn't.
One day, my Father came home from work..and there...near the tippy top of his stick was a single white and pink flower. He was so excited, and called us all outside to gaze at this single pathetic flower. Over the next few years the tree teased him...shooting out some awesome floral displays...but never producing a single cherry.
When I was 10 we took a trip to Stone Mountain, Georgia. I loved that place...it was just so historic. When we returned my sisters were the first to notice the miracle. They both yelled "Daddy, you have cherries!!" Sure enough that tree was loaded to the brim with little green cherries. They were super small, but they were there. My Dad just stared in amazement. He put up a net to keep the birds and small kids away. Everyday he would check on those cherries, he would pick the ripe ones, and give them to us. They were sour..not exactly that good. To him they were just the most awesome thing he had seen.
Over the next three years that tree threw itself into making my Dad happy. Although he grew a great many strange and unusual things, nothing made him happier than that tree. Then one day the most horrible thing happened. I went out to shoot something and noticed the tree covered by a huge cocoon of silk..inside the silk were these little worms. The worms were having a good time eating the tree. My Father tried everything he could think of. He pulled the worms off, sprayed the tree, but in a few days they were back. Finally, the tree died.
My Father cut the tree down, dug up its roots, and burned it. The next day, my Dad planted another stick. It was another Cherry Tree. He has had many productive seasons with that tree, but it is the first tree that he talks about the most.
My Father has taught me a great many things...some of them on purpose...most by accident. His perseverance in growing that tree was the most important for me. After years of waiting, pruning, spraying, and praying the tree finally responded. When it died he didn't give up and plant another apple tree, we have tons of those. No, he planted his first love.
In this country we face many struggles, at times it is easy to feel that we will never see the fruits of our labor, nothing is happening fast enough. We spend way too much time lamenting those things lost, and not enough time taking the positive steps we need to nourish our country. We become easily sidetracked by other issues, we fail to stay the course. If we continue to actively prune, spray, and pray one day our country will produce the fruits of freedom. Our tree died of neglect, but it can be replanted again. Have faith in your power to make the change...don't just stand there...do something.