Sycamore Trees

I love sycamore trees. I played hours alone as a boy under an ancient old specimen at my grandmother's. I love the leaves, the bark, the size, shape and smell of sycamore trees. I love everything about sycamore trees.

Sycamores are a tough lot they suffer badly during a hot dry summer. The older men are usually scarred from loss of limbs to ice and storm. They are very late to come out in spring and each year I anxiously await the many fine old gentlemen that populate my neighborhood to show signs of life. Every year just as I am about to despair some particularly gnarly one he displays his new leaves.

If looking for water, a surface stream, a spring or an underground pool look skyward for a sycamore. They love water. Some many years ago, I planted a small sycamore in the corner of my yard that collects runoff into a deep and wide French drain. He prospered in the perennially wet corner.

In his sixth year, torrential rains blitzed our town for 36 non-stop, hours. During this deluge, as I looked out into the backyard I watched my little sycamore begin to list. The youngster was being washed out. My young son and I rushed out looped a heavy rope around the trunk and lashed it to the garden gate. His ball had been about 40% exposed and we wondered if it would reset itself and he would live. It did and he did. Several years later during the construction of a brick fence around our yard my now mature friend sustained root shock. Once again, I feared he would not survive. The next spring showing quite a bit of limb loss he nonetheless gave leaf once more.

Three years thence, we experienced a horrible ice storm that devastated those branches not destroyed previously by the root shock. This time I knew for sure the old boy was a goner and sure enough that spring I counted only half dozen pathetic leaves on the entire 30-foot tree. The wide canopy of lush limbs he had once proudly shown were either gone or barren. He had finally succumbed.

That summer we had a Mexican tree crew out to trim our trees. Were Ruben an educated man one would call him an arborist as it is he is just a man of trees. Trees feed Ruben and his family and he loves them for it. On the strenuous urging of my wife, I reluctantly asked Ruben to take what was now no more than an eyesore down and haul it away. “Senor Hacker” “I think he might be saved, would you like me to try?” “You think so" I hoped. The gentle eyes in the wizened brown face smiled as he answered; “yes I think so”. Ruben owns no bucket truck or fancy ladders he trims trees the old-fashioned way, climbing into and up them on jackboots, with handsaws. He went to work and when he finished what was left was more totem pole than sycamore. The surgery was as radical as radical can get. “Now we wait,” Ruben announced.

It’s two years later now and I am looking out at a 30 foot sycamore just covered with life. No suckers here but new little branches full with lush green leaves. My sycamore has suffered virtually everything nature and man can throw at a tree. He has survived flood, trauma, drought and ice. In the most recent crisis, every live twig was cut back to the trunk. He must have hurt tremendously and felt terrifically embarrassed, even ashamed. Even so had Ruben not performed his draconian but gentle cutting my tree would have surely died.

The experience of my pal the sycamore reminds me of the painful and humbling ways my Lord grows me and prunes the death from me. As I look at the robust vitality of life on display out my window, I am reminded too that if He chose to spare me the hurt and shame caused by His loving care, I too would die.

I love sycamore trees.