The parable of the tree stakes: celebrate independence and have patience

When we look around us and reflect a little, we can find meaning in the simplest of things, like hot air balloons or even scraggly trees.

Nearly three years ago we planted an ash tree in our backyard. From the start, it did not look robust and at my father’s urging, we put three stakes around it (with ropes around the trunk, of course) to stabilize it and ensure it literally started in the right direction.

A few weeks after planting it, it looked pretty scraggly. Some of its leaves seemed on the verge of wilting. To avoid what we thought might be its quick demise, we started supplementing the sprinkler water it soaked up with some hose water once a week, doing it religiously until it went dormant in the fall.

As I looked at that tree late the next winter, I had my doubts that its leaves would start to show themselves because its small buds seemed harder than they should be with no signs of a future leaves breaking through.

“What a waste,” I thought to myself. “This tree isn’t going to make it through its first winter.”

A tree with stakes can teach us patience and to celebrate our independence
We can be reminded of life lessons from a late-blooming tree surrounded by stakes

My faith in this tree continued to decrease as all the other trees in our yard and neighborhood began to show their new greenery. When, the leaves of our neighbors’ ash tree (different variety, however) started to show, I about gave up. What I didn’t know was that this tree is literally a late bloomer. It was the last to show its leaves, but when it did, it looked a lot healthier than the year before. Needless to say, I was pleased.

This week my father said it was time to remove those stakes. He came one day while I was at school and did so. As I looked at the tree without its stakes, I couldn’t help but reflect on the tree’s life and think of two metaphors the tree represents.

I thought of the removal of the stakes as a signal that the tree has now grown up enough for it to stand on its own, which I compared to a child who has reached a point where he or she is able to be independent of a mentor or security blanket that has been at his or her side for so long, like being potty trained, leaving the training wheels behind once balance is mastered on a bike, or leaving home for college. Our life is a series of events in which our “stakes are removed” and we are left on our own to make our own decisions, doing our best to remember and apply what our mentor or mentors have taught us.

In addition to its stakes being removed, I also could not help but compare the tree’s late-blooming tendencies to having patience with ourselves. Some of us are late bloomers, and that is perfectly OK. On this vein, I think of one of my favorite authors, James Michener, well known for his epic historical fiction masterpieces such as HawaiiAlaska and Chesapeake. He did not publish a novel until the age of 40, the very age I will turn this year.

I think of high school and college friends who knew what they wanted to do with their lives from an early age, went for it and are now highly successful in their respective careers. I, on the other hand, have wandered a little and have taken longer to find my niche, but I’ve found it now. I have a few regrets (who doesn’t), but I will continue to move forward, brimming with hope for a better tomorrow while firmly rooted in the present.

I encourage you to celebrate the instances in life when your “stakes are removed” and have patience with yourself when those around you seem to be “blooming earlier.” Your good times will come and they will be worth the wait.

11 thoughts on “The parable of the tree stakes: celebrate independence and have patience

    1. Agreed – and we’re sometimes overwhelmed because those “stakes” are so involved and we don’t realize how important they are to us until they are removed. Thanks for your comment, Rachel.

  1. I live in an apartment, but my grandma has a bit of land (not much, probably just enough to build add a block or two to the current house) but she has a few fruit trees planted (lemons, oranges, something else I can’t remember). I remember seeing a new tree with the stakes and my grandma told me the young tree needed those to grow up straight. Indeed, I couldn’t help but think about the “limits” my parents and close family (like grandma and aunts) put on me growing up, and that they did so I would grow up well, respectful, educated and open-hearted. It was a touching moment and it makes me very happy to find all that in your post here, Ruben. 🙂 Late bloomers are just as lovely as early bloomers, aren’t they? A celebration of diversity, I feel.

    Big hugs,

    1. Thanks, Luana. Loved your thoughts. We don’t realize how much our loved ones, our “stakes,” care for us until they have a diminished role in our lives, when we venture out on our own. And yes, late bloomers are just as good as early bloomers. Thank you so much for your support!

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