Once Upon Otero Road
There is a tree I pass twice daily on the way to and from work. It's an old cottonwood with rough bark and gnarled branches twisting ever upward. It marks the top of a road with too many speed bumps for comfort and efficiency of travel, but it's the route to family and friends. The tree is older than I am; I can't remember a time it wasn't there, standing vigil as a faithful landmark.
One of the tree's most charming qualities was a bit of a secret it held; only after its large, shady leaves had turned autumn brown and dropped to litter Otero Road did one learn its mystery. Those twisted branches, when bare, showed off a loving silhouette of a large, Valentine heart. As much as I detest the cold, I'd look forward to nature telling me she loved me every morning on my way to the office, and again at night when I'd return exhausted from a long day of the mundane.
One day several years ago, on a day much like any other, I drove by my arboreal friend, only to discover county road department laborers chopping away at this beloved cottonwood. Perhaps some branches were hanging a bit too low and were a hazard to drivers and pedestrians should the infamous New Mexico wind kick up, but like getting a haircut from the local cosmetology school, my tree was being transformed, whether it liked it or not. At once, the east limbs crashed to the ground, and half the heart was gone.
The massacre resonated with me, as only months before I'd had my own heart torn in half. It was worst in the dead of winter, when all the emotions were raw and exposed, and I'd not had time to grow new cover to camouflage my pain. Even into that summer the cottonwood simply didn't look RIGHT. I suspect I looked much the same. Though the trim was inevitable-- I see that now-- God took more of my heart than I'd been prepared to give.
It has taken many years, but my tree is much recovered. In the summer, when all is right in the world, you'd hardly notice its lopsidedness. And though the better part of a decade has passed, I'm pleased to say those amputated branches have grown anew, stronger and lovelier than before. Without any coaching, a new heart is growing, perhaps better than before. It simply took time.