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Beauty in Death

A week ago I received a survey from the property managers of the apartment I live in asking me to review my apartment. At the end of the survey, it asked if I had any additional comments, and I mentioned not enjoying looking out of the large window in my bedroom at a dead tree outside. This tree was not a pleasant companion during the first few months of living here. 

When I moved into this apartment with my brother in Christ, I was suffering from suicidal ideation. Waking up in the morning and coming home from therapy were some of the most difficult times to have this representation of death right outside my window. I would often fixate on it to the point of wondering how I could use it in a violent way to aid in ending my life. I hoped regularly that the property manager would cut it down but that did not happen. 

As spring sprung, the pandemic began, and my suicidal thoughts faded, I had the opportunity to see the lifeless skeleton of this tree differently. Each morning, there was a flurry of bird activity that seemed, in some part, to be focused on this tree. I watched as the birds used the rough bark on the dead limbs to scratch themselves and to play cat and mouse games on before mating. This dead tree was a part of the life of many creatures and so I started to be less bothered by it. 

As summer and fall passed and winter came, I started to see it again as a blight until this Sunday morning when I woke to it being covered with snow. Each dead branch held a little pile of snow. I recognized that the beauty was only visible because the tree was dead.

Parts of me are not healthy. Some are a little rotted. They are not pretty. But they allow the beauty in other parts of me to show more clearly than they do in those who still have all their needles. 

So, I no longer want the tree removed, which probably means it will be. I see the beauty in its barrenness, in the parts that seemingly no longer have life. I embrace the dead tree as I learn to embrace my own imperfections and sometimes ugliness. The tree is beautiful just as it is and adds something to the environment that other trees don’t. And likewise with me. Thanks be to God. 

Written 1/31/21

Human-written, AI spell-checked

Image from Garrett D Johnson


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