Kingdom of Ends

There's a pecan tree in my backyard that, it is estimated, is over one hundred years old. Its canopy is narrow, but its reach is tall; its branches stretch a hundred feet into the the atmosphere.  When I bought my house, it was the only tree planted on my postage-stamp lot.

Someone, at some point, took the time to construct a wooden pergola under the pecan, four simple posts in the ground supporting an open latticed roof. A banana-yellow porch swing was hung from the cross beams, shaded by the branches of the pecan. Before I moved into the vacant house, I would stop by and sit on the swing, staring up toward the heavens, wondering who had nurtured this magnificent tree that, as Robert Frost once wrote "the scythe had spared."

For the last three months -- a season -- a homeless woman has lived with me. She bears the first name of my mother and her middle name is that of my sister.

When I picked her up at the Salvation Army, a World War II veteran was there with his wife, stooped over the hatchback of a station wagon, unloading box after box of food. He pushed a flier about God into my hand and told me the words had sustained him throughout his battles. I looked at the people milling around the alley and, momentarily, saw the war he had chosen to now fight. I took the one I could carry from the battlefield, but I'm now afraid the effort was in vain. I wish I'd kept that flier.

She's from Midland. That makes really very little difference in this story except to say that she had, at one point, what I think was a chance. Now, at fifty six years old, she will return to homelessness in time to celebrate her fifty seventh birthday in two weeks. Job interviews, job fairs, jobs programs and, it seems, praying have all left these questions unanswered:

Who gets spared by the scythe? Why do some leap toward the sky in the full glory of life while others find themselves continuously cut down?

Nelson Henderson said "The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit." It sounds nice but in practice is difficult to do. It requires patience and -- this is more difficult -- faith. I'm not talking about the kind of closed-eyes faith in God in which you stare at your eyelids trying to see something there. I mean faith in believing that what you do see will someday be better. Faith in knowing that we must do things -- plant trees, help others, give ourselves -- without any expectation of enjoying the end result.

What trees are we planting in Texas? I fear none at all. We have selfish leaders making selfish legislation based on selfish desires. We shroud all of this with rhetoric like "government spending" and demand the lesser few be "cut off," while expecting the system to continue to service our own selfish needs. If Rick Perry wants a Response to his doubts of the future of our nation, here's one for him: You reap what you sow.

For my part, I've planted a ten foot elm in the back that is dwarfed by the great pecan. A hundred years from now, when I am dust or a breeze or a ray of sunlight catching, I hope the person who sits under the elm has faith and finds themselves living in a state that invests in its people instead of cutting them down.

For there is hope of a tree, If it be cut down, that it will sprout again, And that the tender branch thereof will not cease.  
Job 14:7

7 Response to "Kingdom of Ends"

  • Anonymous Says:

    Very Nice Rachel,

  • brad Says:

    Another great post, Rachel... so much to learn from homeless people and nature. Much more than I ever learned in a classroom. Keep up the good work-

  • Anonymous Says:

    gawd i heart you. such great writing. keep it up meanie!

  • Mean Rachel Says:

    Thanks guys.

  • Paul Says:

    What a great story and a great lesson for all of us to learn. Thanks for sharing and assisting someone else in need.

  • jstewart69 Says:

    I have been trying for months to figure out how to say this same thing without sounding bitter. (I don't have your gift, obviously.) A portion of our existing state and federal representatives spend a good deal of time worrying out "the children." Things are for or on behalf of "the children." But only monetary things. Why don't they worry about the other things we leave our children: a crumbling infrastructure (and if you don't believe it, take a ride down I-35), a horrible love of money and possession, daily evidence that he who lies and cheats the most is the most rewarded, that what you say is more important than what you do. Why don't they worry about that? That, like the tree, is much more important than the "things" we leave our children.

  • Anonymous Says:

    love this story