As we took the Durango-Silverton Steam Train ride through the wooded passages carved deep with rapidly running rivers and lush green meadows, it was a joyous moment when I observed this Douglas Fir, about one foot tall right smack-dab in the middle of the rapidly running Animas River. Now, at first you might not think much about this "find" of mine, but let me assure you of a couple of things. First, the tree was growing - not just laying there or lodged into a rock. It was actually growing right in the middle of the rapids! Second, it was growing straight up toward the open sky - no bend, no lean. Lastly, it was lush in growth and green. If you find this a little odd, so did I because we don't usually see trees growing in rapid waters - maybe along the banks of the river, but not right in the middle of the rapidly flowing cold waters of high country run-off. It brought to mind the passage about growing strong, like a tree planted by a stream - a tree sure to produce fruit, whose leaves will never wither. The passage took on new light as I considered the possibilities of not only being able to grow "by" the waters, but right smack-dab in the middle of them!
Great blessings belong to those who don’t listen to evil advice, who don’t live like sinners, and who don’t join those who make fun of God. Instead, they love the Lord’s teachings and think about them day and night. So they grow strong, like a tree planted by a stream—a tree that produces fruit when it should and has leaves that never fall. Everything they do is successful. (Psalm 1:1-3 ERV)
You might think that this tiny tree would not be able to send down roots deep enough to keep in long-term. I don't know if it will last to grow as tall as those surrounding it in the nearby forests, but I do know that for now, it is planted well and growing strong. I marvel though at the tiny tree's "will" to take root, for it faces many forces which act as "stress" against which it must grow.
- The raging waters. Now, if you have traveled through these deeply carved gorges in this area, you will know the power of these waters. These were white water rapids! Not just a lazy flowing stream, but muddy, raging waters. I cannot imagine the continual buffeting this tiny tree is taking by the flow of these waters, but it doesn't seem to be adversely affected. Why? That "stress" from the waters flowing "against" it actually gave it deep enough roots to resist the urge to be uprooted, carried away, or even bending beneath their force. Stress isn't always bad, my friend. Sometimes we need a little stress to actually do us the good deed of digging in a little deeper!
- The harsh weather conditions. Rain pelted us that day as we traveled along, but harsher conditions would have been the "lot" of this tiny tree much earlier in this season. The snows around the area would have been present not long before our visit and in fact, were expected during our visit, as well. The Animas River is known for remaining "ice free" in the winter months, but that doesn't stop the snows from flying in the area. In fact, those cold conditions present the second stress this tiny tree has to face. We all know what the cold does to us - making us slow down. The tiny tree cannot slow its growth, though, for every season sends the challenges which will cause it to take even deeper root and grow stronger against the elements which challenge it.
- The many falling and moving rocks. Within these gorges are huge rocks and rocks which just break off, falling into the Animas and being carried by the force of the raging white waters. Imagine this tiny tree beginning to take root - averaging about 12 - 24 inches of growth per year, depending on the conditions. This tree was about 12-18 inches in height making it about 1-1.5 years old. In that time, it has been pummeled with many a river stone, not to mention silt carried by the raging waters, falling rock wedging its way into the crevices of the waterway. One of the things a person knowledgeable in the growth of trees will tell you is that a tree grows when the soil conditions are the best. Imagine the rocky conditions of this river bed and think about the stress of having to constantly send roots around rocks. Those rocks create not only stress against which the roots must exert pressure, but they exert pressure on the roots as they move and shift in the raging waters. I imagine these rocks add to the already challenging growth conditions for this tiny tree, but I don't see them as uprooting it anytime soon!
Just some observations from a tiny tree wedged deep into the waters of the Animas. We might not be "in the waters", but be assured of this, we are challenged to put down deep roots, to find strength against the elements which would seek to challenge us to slow our growth, and those things which come against us to seek to uproot us. In each case, these things can serve us well - when we put our roots down deeper and grow straight and tall toward the light we have been given. Just sayin!