What Planting a Blue Spruce Taught Me About Life

I call her baby blue, or Blue for short. She is adorable, growing fast, silver-blue, five feet tall. She has quickly taken on the steady and faithful role of watching over our house and neighbourhood street. Behind her people are camping out under a makeshift tarp and hiding away their hurt, across from her a man walked yesterday yelling and gesturing wildly with his arms, and beside her lives my village, my people, our community house family. She gently welcomes happily our daily watering, but really, in all her honesty, most prefers a steady summer rain. She was a gift from a good friend, and replanted beside our house one month ago. May I say, with all genuineness, she is a blessing.

Blue arrived through a bit of a mix up over where she would be planted. Her first suggested space became a flower garden, her second chosen place is a few feet south of the garden. The yellow petunias, hostas, red Flaming deminias (rhymes with Jalepenas is how my neighbour remembers it) and Lavender have a way of charming her I suspect, and her own blue needles lend soft shadows over the eyes of morning light hovering around the garden.

Silver blue. Blue green. Singing the blues. Baby blues. Blue jazz. Little boy blue. Blue velvet. Got the blues. Blueberries. Bluebells.

Blue started teaching me about life the minute she arrived in the back of our friend’s van, roots loose and losing some of their soil. We were emotionally exhausted as something upsetting had just happened the day before, and we were struggling with moving forward in decisive ways. Yet the fact that she would die if not planted, gave us a clear direction to follow, and got us grounded again. New life needs to be nurtured and protected above all else. What we are given we must cradle, love, and plant into the ‘already-grand-beauty’ of this earth.

She also taught me that transporting ourselves from one kind of soil–our place, our family, our home, all that we’ve known–to another, without community, preparation, and sensitivity to this kind of homesickness can set us up for hardship in our new environment. We hurt when we are limited from thriving. She also taught me that roots need room to spread. They don’t just grow down, they grow out. They reach for new love, new space, new direction, new challenges. With the right amount of space to grow into who we are and what we need most, we will thrive.

Blue taught me that three or more people planting a life is better than one. Holding her tall and adjacent to the blue sky, watering her roots, adding fertilizer, adding compost soil–the bigger the village, the better her chances for survival. She taught me that she fears not the dark, and not being alone, and instead she loves the stars overhead, quiet of the night, birds of the early, early morning, the sweet lone call of the cardinal. She fears not the human elements and unknown of the human heart and experience, and instead grows strong listening to the echo of the deeper earth, where all things are connected and alive together.

She teaches me miracles of new life. How to stand rooted and strong in a world where trauma exists, where pain happens, where hurt is deep. And also the gentleness, the tenderness, the love with which she sheds her needles, her gracefulness in letting go, as she creates a ground covering for the tiniest ants, beetles, grasshoppers. And a place in her arms for birds to land.

She also teaches me that in the area I live, which is on a downtrodden street left almost isolated in its burdens, where things go missing, get wrecked, and our welcome garden sign was taken, that the trees and beautiful gardens are still loved by all who pass by it, respected, appreciated, seen as healing. As though there is a recognizing of life that is more beautiful and healing than we as humans could ever be for one another.

She teaches me that we all continue to become more beautiful, in both good and hard and sorrowful situations. She already has new shoots all over, beautiful young tender bright green needles shedding their bud-casings. I thought this beauty meant her transformation was life-giving and plentiful. I have since learned that even if she was dying, she would still be sprouting these beautiful new shoots. That a tree cannot help but do what it’s meant to do, even in a journey towards death. Beauty comes in death, as in life.

She teaches me to believe in all that will someday be. To imagine what will happen in the years she grows tall and wistful and magnificent. To wonder whether I will be alive still, or returned to the divine, when she comes into her fullest height and breadth of life. And she teaches me that even though the blue spruce that we planted outside my bedroom window in the country along our rural roads when I was eight years old and had to be dug up and moved many years later due to her height and gigantic root system, that she will come back again, come round again, be faithful to me and the world I inhabited as a child. That her roots remain and my child will not disappear. Her symbol of peace never waivers. The presence of blue, like a soothing wind over the high waves of ocean is always steady. The blue of a sail. The blue of a saint’s eyes. The blue of never-ending life. Blue of heaven on earth, and fireflies, and sparks over a campfire, and hearts that were once broken but are finding their way back home. Blue.

On the edge of sleep.

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Some stories from home, some from travel adventures (usually in autumn), some happening in community, friendship and faith, and some about the vulnerable, lonely and excluded. To honour them because they have changed me for the better and taught me how to love more fully and be loved more fully. Some days are great, some good, some not always good. But overall, it's been a beautiful journey so far, and I feel more like myself every day. -- Debra, writer / photographer / blogger / traveller

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