There is a little tree on the side of our yard that I love. Its branches are high enough to walk under, but low enough to reach up and touch (or lift a child to touch). It stands about the size of our one-story home, so it fits well in our yard. Its leaves are a deep, bright green, and it has lots and lots of branches that mushroom out into an almost perfect dome. It is a fantastic tree to anchor a game of ring-around-the-rosy. It’s just a great tree!
This spring, the tree didn’t bud. All the trees in our neighborhood were in bloom or at least on their way, but my little tree buddy’s branches were stark and lifeless. We rent, so my husband mentioned it to the property owners who asked their gardener, a mutual friend, to check it out. He came out a week or two later and declared it alive and about to bud. Sure enough, leaves have now appeared everywhere and are on their way to maturity.
In passing, the gardener mentioned that it was sort-of an ugly tree! Our friend knows far more about plants than we do. I’ve seen his work; he has a green thumb and a great eye for natural beauty. We, on the other hand, are not landscaping people. I have a hard time telling which plants in our yard are weeds and which were intentionally planted by the former owners. I’m guessing most people who know anything about trees might find themselves sharing the gardener’s opinion. I’m fascinated that the tree could be something of such great worth to one person and of such low value to another. I guess it all depends on the rubrics we use to measure worth.
Ultimately, it’s just a tree. Its success as a tree isn’t swayed by either the gardener’s opinions or my own. The same idea applies to people, though. I wonder how many people I have mentally marginalized because they’ve struck me as unpretty trees. I’m not one to be intentionally cruel, but there are plenty of people that it’s just easier to pass by: that relative who always has something negative to say… the coworker who is so difficult to be around… that young adult who doesn’t say much and is hard to engage. They are someone’s beautiful trees, in this realm or the next. Perhaps, with the right eyes, they could be mine.