“Sticks and stones can break my bones…or, so I have been told, they can be used for lovely decor.”-Brad
Canada is 5000 kilometres across and for the last sixteen years it has been a 4500 kilometre drive to my sister’s house. She didn’t always live on the other side of the country. Just after she was married it was only a 15 kilometres drive from where I called home. Because she had cable and I didn’t, I could sometimes drop in and she would let me watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. If I couldn’t watch it she would video tape the episodes for me. How great of a sister is that?
Since she had shown me such kindness, it seemed only fair that I should return the favour willingly when the time came for her to ask one of me. That time arrived in the middle of winter. She and her husband were taking a trip to escape the storms of February in a place that was far, far away and felt much much less February. Her favour of me was that I would visit her home each day and water her plants. I didn’t think that was too hard, on occasion I can complete simple tasks.
She explained that most of the plants in the house would need to be maybe watered once or twice a week. But it was her project in the spare bedroom that needed special attention. The story goes, as far as I remember it, that someone she knew had planted a special tree from overseas. She had taken some clipping from that tree in the Autumn and her plan was to have them take root over the winter so that once the summer suns had melted our winter snow she would have a number of saplings ready for planting. She told me she had been watering them all winter and it was important to continue while she was away.
Not wanting to miss the final season of ST:TNG I agreed to do this favour for her. The first day I went around and watered all the plants in her living room and kitchen. I spotted some flowers in the study and watered them too. Unfortunately they turned out to be artificial and water poured out the bottom pf the pot all over the table and floor. I freely admit I am no botanist.
After wiping up the water from the floor of the study I made my way to the spare room. There on the window sill sat a row of eight Styrofoam cups. Each one was filled with dirt and had a four inch stick, about half the thickness if a pencil, sticking up out the middle of each cup. The sticks still had the bark on them and could be described this way; dead. It was, plain and simple, a stupid stick in the dirt, and my sister expected me to water them each day.
Because I said I would, I did, each day.
This has got to be a practical joke, I thought each time I watered them. I could imagine my sister, in her place of warmth, laughing at the thought of me, in the depths of February, watering eight dead sticks.
She had probably set up the artificial flowers in the study just to mess with my mind too.
I watered the sticks the day before she returned home and they looked exactly the same as the the day she left, weeks before; dead. There had been no sign of life during my stint as an arborist. I told her that I had watered her sticks like she asked, expecting her to burst into laughter and pointing at me saying, “I got you good!” To my surprise she didn’t laugh but said thanks. She then explained how she didn’t know if her plan would actually work but she was hoping to get eight trees to plant come summertime. That was when I realized, to her, it was no joke, she was truly serious about this project and all winter long had faithfully tended the contents of those eight Styrofoam cups, believing she would have trees that summer.
So I did what any big brother would do to his little sister at a time like that, I teased her and laughed, “Trees? Good luck with that! They are just sticks in a cup! You spent all winter watering sticks in a cup!” She gave me that look little sisters give their big brothers when they are simply annoying. It was also the look that told me she really didn’t have to record Star Trek if she didn’t want to. I stopped teasing.
That summer my sister planted four of her special trees in the backyard of my parent’s house and made me come out to see them. I looked down at the young saplings nearly a foot tall, amazed that her determination, care, and vision (plus my few weeks of watering) had culminated in these tiny trees with leaves of bright green drinking in the summer sun.
I was proud of my sister that day.
That night rabbits came out of the woods and ate three of them. That fourth tree took root and as far as I know it is still growing behind our old house to this day.
I have since learned there are people in this world with a special gift; to be able to look at a simple object and see a thing of beauty no one else does, they can give that object a purpose that most of us would never imagine. What once was considered useless is given reason. These people may be doubted or made fun of, but they press forward and their vision is rewarded.
These are the people this world needs more of.