Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Good Husband

On our ranch here in Wallowa County in northeast Oregon there’s an oak tree that Rahn, the dear husband, planted a few years back. Standing solitary and straight-- like a lonely centennial-- this little tree faces south, saluting our majestic Wallowa Mountains. In our covenant community we folks call Wallowa County, "The Shire", an endearing term for the place we love so much. The Shire has been our home for more than 30 years.
The plucky little oak stands in defiance at the end of our yard, which butts up to where the Zumwalt Prairie begins. This pristine prairie is a lonely, treeless expanse of land unique in this United States, and one of the few relatively untouched native prairies left of its kind. People here are few. Actually, the most frequent and numerous inhabitants of the Zumwalt are the many kinds of Raptores. Their wings cast giant shadows across the native bunch grass as they swirl in laconic circles high above the lonesome grasslands. They are anything but lazy; however, ever on the watch for their favorite prey, the red digger--a small ground squirrel--even more numerous then the Raptores.
Needless to say, the oak sticks out like a sore thumb on such a bare landscape. It seems to be saying, "I defy you to tell me I should not be here." The truth is, it should not. Nor should it have survived its five-some years rooted in a clay-ish, rocky soil where the winters are harsh and the hot summer sun and frequent winds even harsher.
But this is not just any oak. It was one of the first trees chosen from the nursery and planted on our land–even before the house took root. For all these years the oak has been cultivated by my good husband, who lovingly and carefully tends it. He knew it was probably a silly idea to plant it in the first place, because most varieties of oak do not do well in this harsh climate. Nonetheless the oak has stood through summer and winter these past few years, a picture of strength with its deep and abiding roots–surely a testament of security, stability and durability. Without a doubt, Rahn is a husbandman in the truest sense of the word. Each morning, as he surveys the land he so dearly loves, he looks upon the tree with pleasure and pride. He cares for the oak tirelessly. But it is also without a doubt, the root of this particular oak has a will to live. The tree seems impervious to the scorching hot and harsh winds in summer and the blistering cold in winter. Its constancy and determination to survive (despite not being right for our climate) makes Rahn smile. Against all odds, it has been through many such seasons before, and still lives to tell it.

Perhaps my husband’s pleasure in the tree comes consciously--or subconsciously--not just from his tender care of it, but from realizing that he and it have much in common. He too is persistent–willing to battle whatever the prevailing elements–to stand strong and rooted in the same place--to never give up on the ones he loves; nor ever give in to what he knows to be right. He too is rooted to the land and loves it only a little less than God, wife, children and grandchildren.

Since it has survived these past years I suppose we began to pretty much take the oak’s survival for granted. Up until this past summer Rahn religiously and zealously has kept all his trees and especially his oak carefully watered. By July he assumed the natural rains would take over and he would work himself out of the job of watering. He assumed wrong! It was a mistake that nearly cost the mighty little oak its life. Around the end of July he suddenly realized the tree was dying, shedding nearly all it’s beautiful leaves. What once stood proud and defiant against the elements now looked bedraggled, forlorn and pathetic.

"Give up!" was all our friends and family could say when they saw the oak, and myself included! After all, what tree puts on new leaves in late July after such a catastrophe? But the husband--as good husbands and good husbandry goes--would not give up on what he had planted and nurtured. At first, I chided him for his silly efforts. It was foolish to continue, I said. Eventually, however, I gave up. So, I sat back quietly watching as each day he faithfully watered the dejected little tree. He stubbornly plowed on in his hope of revival.

Then one day a small miracle (are miracles ever small?) took place. As if by magic–the spindly trunk began to perk up. Fresh, gloriously green leaves suddenly appeared as if out of thin air! Even more miraculous, by August the tree was back in full regalia, waving gaily to the silent prairie practically shouting out: "Hello! Look here–Hey, look at me!" No one could believe it and especially not the "Doubting Thomas" of the family--me.

Interestingly enough, the tree came back the same month we celebrated our thirty-fourth wedding anniversary. The coincidence (are there ever coincidences?) caused me to reflect upon our marriage. (After all, 34 years is a long time!) I am like that oak tree--the recipient of Rahn’s tender, constant and nurturing care. Watching my husband’s efforts day after day--never giving up and never quitting on the oak-- made me see him and my life in a brand new way.

Here we are still together after 34 years! I’m pretty darn sure that has (and had) a lot to do with his perseverance more than anything else. Here we are putting on new leaves in our middle age, despite the sometimes rocky row he’s had to hoe with me along the way. Through thick and thin, in season and out, he has persevered with me.

His efforts paid off, and now here we are watching our successful offshoots taking on a healthy root system all their own and begetting Godly fruit--largely due to their father’s nurturing influence. What I once took for granted, I now revel in. Despite not doing everything right–far from it--perseverance does pay off in what the Bible calls "generational fruit". All too soon we--like the flowers--will fade; yet I am convinced the sapling Rahn so carefully planted and cultivated in love all those years ago on our wedding day will one day turn into a mighty oak–a mature tree who stands as a monument to the good husband who faithfully began it all.

--"For he will be like a tree planted by the water that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought, nor cease to yield fruit." Jeremiah 17:8

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