Forty-five years ago, my father-in-law and I cleared the homesite for the house my wife and I would build. To this day, I remember discussing the fate of a small, but beautiful hickory tree. It was four inches thick, ramrod straight, and about eighteen feet tall. But it was only fifteen feet from what would be the back wall of our house. In the end, I elected to keep it, clearly failing to visualize what would happen to such a tree over forty-five years…
Still beautiful and ramrod straight (but no danger to the house), the tree is now some seventy feet tall with a trunk that’s nearly two feet thick. In the fall, its golden canopy adds color to our yard and is a sight to behold. But every September, the squirrels begin cracking and eating the nuts, and pieces of shell rain down upon our back porch roof, clogging my gutters. The chipmunks savor the pieces that fall to the ground, while some whole nuts sound like cannon shots that wake you from a morning slumber as they hit the deck far below.
So, I failed to cut that hickory tree down when its absence might have made little difference. And without it, I’d have a lot less fall maintenance to do. But forty-five years have changed a lot. Much more than just a backyard fixture, it has become a central component of its own little ecosystem, with many critters quite dependent upon it for their winter food.
Just as I failed to visualize how a tree might change over forty-five years, I failed to appreciate how much I’d change as well. During those fleeting years, I mastered multiple business skills, built a successful small town practice, became a father, a father-in-law, and a grandfather, and retired to a “second act,” teaching, writing, speaking, and blogging.
As this year comes to a close, take time to reflect on the changes in your life. Are you happy? Are you satisfied? Are you where you want to be? If so, celebrate! If not, determine what it is that you need to do, and move forward with a plan.
As I complete this blog, the chipmunks run in and out of their rocky homes in the late day sun and gather up the sunflower seeds spilled by the birds from the feeders above. Soon, dusk will be upon us, and the backyard activity will cease for the day as our “local inhabitants” secure for another chilly fall night.
In the meantime, it’s clear that I’ll be cleaning the shell debris from hickory nuts off my back porch roof for many years to come… And that’s okay with me.