|Gnarly Tree (Silver Maple), Boonton, NJ|
I spent a lot of years working with people in New Jersey, so, when my route took me through the state, I called a few of them up.
One guy in particular had promised me dinner multiple times over the years. He'd call me asking a favor, and promise me dinner if I delivered. I delivered, he didn't - but partially because we were never in the same state.
Now was my chance to collect, and he was happy to make good on at least one of the dinners I was owed. When I met him at his house, I was struck by the tree in the front yard.
In the young, gnarled is not a good thing. A misshapen sapling is not likely to grow strong, nor survive the storms. Somewhere beyond middle age, this changes. The lumps and bumps are badges; proof of trials won and storms survived.
In some ways, I find this applies to people. Back in Kansas City, one of my favorite restaurants has a big blown-up picture on the wall of an old person. Man or woman, I never could tell from the shot; advanced age has a way of making such distinctions almost meaningless. But the lines in his/her face told a story of their own. They told of a lifetime spent smiling more than frowning. His eyes sparkled; the deep lines creasing her cheeks and eyes invited confidence. He could be trusted.
It is one of my deepest hopes, after life has etched its lines upon my own face, that those lines will tell much the same story.