I wanted an opportunity to write this week instead of Erin doing it.
I figured it was the perfect time because we’re nearing Father’s Day! Over the past several months I have been reflecting on what it is to be a dad, and a son. Well I found out one is easy and the other is hard. A son grows and finds out how to navigate the world, he’ll make mistakes and he’ll have much success along the way, he’ll travel, move away, fall in and out of love and make mistakes..Yes, I said mistakes twice. . .
The life of a son should be one that is easy and fun. It should help to make him a well rounded man, one that can stand strong when the winds are rough.
The life of a father is wonderful but hard. It is up to us to make sure we guide and teach while allowing our kids to make mistakes that they must fix on their own.
As a father I look at my daughters and guess what, they make mistakes, they’ll make many along the way and it will be up to Erin and me to make sure they can stand on their own when they need to. We’ll teach them as our parents taught us.
I want to share a memory that is poignant in my life as a son. . .
“134, 135, 136. This tree is 136 years old!” “That’s a really old tree pop.” “Well, not really when you look at some of these other trees but yes it’s old sonny,” my dad said.
My dad taught me that when you look at the growth rings of a tree you can tell what kind of year it was, if it was wet, dry, were there fires and pestilence? On this particular tree it looked fine.
A fire had ripped through and killed several sugar pines, the average lifespan of this tree is 400-500 years. The one we were looking at was a teenager. In it’s 136 years it had been through at least 3 fires (that we could see) , many many years of drought and several years of torrential rain and a few years of insect outbreaks
You can tell these things about the tree based on the discoloration of rings (fire) distance between yearly rings tells us if it was wet or dry. In a wet year there will be more distance between rings because they will have grown more, a drought will cause the tree to grow much less and therefore the rings will be very close to the previous ring and an insect outbreak will leave a sort of white ring.
“Hey Pop, why did it die in this fire but it lived through three others, that doesn't make sense.”
“I think if you look at some of the previous years, say the last 15, you’ll see that it endured some stress because of a drought and disease outbreak. If you look at the years it survived the fire you’ll see that there are at least 2 years of extremely wet weather. The tree wasn’t healthy enough to fight the fire, that’s why it died.”
I think it’s interesting, very interesting that the only way you can know the history of a tree is when it’s cut down and you get to see the rings. The beauty of the tree is that when you look at it, the scars for the most part are not visible, you can’t tell if it was sick, grew a lot, was overrun with insects or if it was thirsty for years on end.
It’s pretty easy to draw parallels between the tree and humans. If you look at any one person at all, you generally don’t know what they've been through, how strong they are or not.
You don’t know if they've endured years of difficulties, neglect, abuse, self doubt or whatever else trauma because they “look ok.”
Fatherhood. . .what are you instilling in your children? Are your words and actions like water or fire? Our parents surrounded us with the tools to beat back the fire. In the same way, Erin and I aim to instill in our girls the meaning of strength and to be strong in the face of adversity and heavy winds.
While none of us are perfect, it makes sense to sow goodness wherever we go and leave your corner of the world a little brighter. I encourage everyone to create an enduring legacy of positivity. Strengthen the people you surround yourself with.
Now, in the Vein of Erin Iler I challenge you to look deeply, are you strengthening the ones around you? Are your words like water or fire?