My wife and I married in August of 2002. Along with the promise of our vows, so came a promise to my daughter (8) and to Carri's daughter (6). We knew that blending two families together would be a challenge and that our relationship would need to be strong and deep. We also knew however that the rewards could be long-lasting.
Because the four of us had already planned a summer vacation together before we got engaged, we decided to forgo a traditional honeymoon, and instead take a "family honeymoon." My friend Jeff Wiley provided us with his Spider Lake cabin, just east of Mercer, Wi. Here at Spider Lake we began to build the foundations of our new family.
After a week in the woods we made a trip to the back of his property and dug up a small white pine. It was 13 inches tall (probably in its second or third summer) and fit snugly into our tidy white pot. When we returned to Madison we transplanted the tree in our back yard. We surrounded the pine with mulch, watered it daily, and hoped for its survival. Its roots and its stability were an important symbol for our family.
Months later, after the warmth of spring had melted the snows, our seemingly fragile pine had sprouted its trunk upward and its branches outward. Amazingly, after an August transplant, it survived a Wisconsin winter. A good sign!
Then in the late winter of 2005, eight months after our third daughter joined the family, we moved to a larger home as we had simply outgrown our cozy ranch. When selling our house we added language to the sales contract that would allow us to come back in the spring to dig up our white pine once again.
This time we transplanted the pine directly out our front door, in a spot where we would see it several times a day. I was a little concerned that another transplant would hurt its chances for survival, but my wife assured me that it would be good for its long-term health. It appears she was right. After surviving a hot and dry summer, the pine then made it through another Wisconsin winter and was again providing us with its inspiring spring-time growths.
During the late winter of 2007 we were hit with a horrible ice storm. Everything was frozen and everything was shut down. My neighbor came over to find out why I had a hair dryer attached to an extension cord in my front yard, melting the ice off of the pine. He could only smile and nod his head as I tried to explain the significance of the White Pine.
Then later in the spring we noticed that the entire pine had very suddenly turned brown and that its needles were falling off. I panicked. I thought we had lost it. I thought I had killed it. I poured over books and reference pages and came to the hopeful conclusion that the browning of its needles was natural. That sometimes white pines just shed their needles. But all we could do was wait. Then almost as quickly as the needles turned brown, they recovered, and once again lifted themselves towards the sunshine. Another good sign!
Now, during its 10th or 11th summer, the pine has grown taller than me. It's no longer a fragile tree, but one that can withstand strong winds, deep snow, drenching rains, hot, dry weather, and even neighborhood children thinking it is a toy. It is healthy. It is growing.
Sure its just a tree, but when I leave my door in the morning I see a companion and a protector. I see widespread roots and growing branches. I see shared struggles and shared joy. I see a symbol of strength and courage. I see a white pine, the most majestic of all Wisconsin's trees.