From Dylan Vines:
Stop for a moment and take a look at the trees around you. Some are towering over one hundred feet tall, with magnificent spreading canopies. Unshakable objects which seem to be as fixed in the landscape as boulders and mountains. Others are small and fragile, perhaps not even reaching above your line of sight.
Yet no matter their size, these trees share one common trait. Every year, a new ring forms within the grains of wood making up the trunk of the tree. An astute observer, studying the rings, is able to read stories of the tree’s past. These stories would find themselves in good company alongside the classic works of drama, mystery, thriller, and romance. There are tales of droughts, when the parched roots searched desperately for moisture in the dry and cracked ground. You may find evidence of an unusually bitter winter. The leaves were lost early that year and did not return until late in the spring. Was the tree surprised that it was able to remain dormant for so long? Blizzards and heat waves, fires and floods. They all leave their inscriptions in the annals of the rings. Yet through all these chapters of trying times, the tree continually returns to the theme of its life.
No matter the challenges endured, a new ring is formed. Unceasing and consistent, like the rising and setting of the sun. So too are we able to look back at our past and marvel at the evolution of our lives. Our own rings are shaped by the unending struggles and joys we experience each day. These days turn to years, and the years turn to decades, and the wealth of time brings new insights and clarity.
Yet new questions also arise. What’s next? Where do I go from here? How do I get there, and will I be able to? These questions are not unlike those faced by the tree during the drought. “When will the rain come?” Or in the gale-force winds. “Will all my branches break?” The tree, however, continues to do the only thing it knows.
Grow. And once again, a new ring is formed.
As I stare now out my window at the mighty willow oak on the lawn, I am a witness to the great story this tree has to tell. To imagine that this massive tree was once a tiny seedling pushing its way out of the earth reminds me of life’s inexorable upwards trajectory. This notion parallels our own lives and shows us that where we are now is not where we were in the past, nor will it be where we go in the future. For many of us, only the first chapter of our stories has been written and sealed. Looking back at the past year, I am able to find the marks of growth, as real as the rings of a tree, and I am grateful for the people and experiences that allowed this growth to take place.
Thank you Cumberland River Compact and Root Nashville for giving me a place to put my roots down and providing me the tools needed to find my path and shape my destiny. I will always be able to look back at this ring of my life and see the challenges I’ve overcome and the work that I’ve put in. But most importantly, I’ll remember the laughs, the smiles, and the pure happiness that I’ve felt being a part of this organization which has not only impacted my life, but also impacts the lives of all Nashvillians and beyond in the most positive and meaningful ways. Wherever my story leads me, it will be forever shaped by the amazing experiences of this past year. And when I feel unsure in the world around me, I will always think back to the faithful mantra of the trees.
Guest post written by Cumberland River Compact AmeriCorps service member Dylan Vines