Each year the little one grew taller and sent out mini-limbs. Four inches, eight inches, a foot. In time its twigs brushed the lowest branches of the plum, clearly telling us that it needed a new home. We found a sunny spot for it in the backyard, and there it thrived, topping four feet in height and filling out.
Then last February, two blizzards struck our region, back to back. We humans called it the snowfall of the century, and we and our dogs stuck to a few narrow, shoveled paths. The backyard looked like the frozen north, a white mass sculpted into drifts.
Gradually, slowly, the snow began to melt, and familiar landmarks emerged. We spotted the gazebo that my husband had built, which is large enough to hold a pine table and six chairs, and which had been completely lost in white. Then, branches of rhododendrons and azaleas appeared, and the snow receded enough to let me stray from the path and explore. But where was my tree? Above the place where it grew, the snow lay packed hard and ominously flat.
I waited anxiously as the snow melted away, and when I could, I cleared away the icy crystals that remained to see what I had feared: my tree in all its green freshness resting on its side, pressed to the ground. It was a sad moment, because I'd grown fond of this plucky volunteer.
But then, further digging exposed a ray of hope. The trunk had bent but not broken. So I raised my tree and tied it to a pole. I kept my fingers crossed, but the tree took no time to rest. It mended its injured trunk and grew strong again. By summer it could stand unsupported.
Few people would call this tree pretty. It has spindly branches and short needles, and its prickliness punishes fingers. what I admire is its character, its determination to thrive.