I was walking around our backyard the other day just thinking and enjoying nature. As I gazed around, I couldnt help but see the benefits of all the rain weve had recently.
Every blade of grass was so green and every flower sparkled in the sunlight. From any vantage point, I could tell the earth was hydrated and happiness seemed to radiate from every living thing.
I came upon a huge cedar tree in our backyard thats been in that same place for at least 100 years. Its trunk is massive, standing stately with its limbs constantly reaching high to touch the crystal blue sky.
Weve been around this tree for the last 20 years of its life, but that almost wasnt the case. When we first moved into our house, I had a dream for our backyard and it didnt include the tree. I considered cutting it down to allow the sunlight that was filtered by its presence to flood freely into the yard.
I stared at that old tree for days trying to decide what to do. But something inside of me just couldnt get rid of it. Even though I didnt think it was the prettiest of trees, it felt like it belonged there.
Every time I walked by it for the first year or so, I tried to convince myself that it was a beautiful tree -- but it was hard. Even though time and the elements had gnarled it and twisted some of its branches into unusual shapes, I told myself it was OK because it was where it was supposed to be.
It had stood proudly as a monument in that exact location for many years, growing bigger and taller with each of them. Plus, it was older than me and I began to respect it. The cedar tree was healthy and strong.
With each year, I liked it a little more. I especially grew to love the shade it offered in the oppressive summer months.
Because of its huge trunk and massive root system that spread out from the base of the tree like anchors, growing lush grass underneath it is impossible. No matter how hard we tried over the years, we could never get grass to grow under it.
Finally, one day we gave up and decided to just go with the natural flow and added a bed of decorative river rocks all around the bottom of the tree. Their natural coloration really complimented the tree. But it still was a little harsh for me. I felt like it needed some plants to soften it.
Since it only allowed filtered sunlight to enter its domain, I knew Id have to look for vegetation that would love to be shielded from the suns rays. I decided I would place some ferns in pots around the base.
I knew the various shades of greens and texture would be just what the old cedar tree needed.
I loved the idea of planting them in pots so that they could be easily taken in during the harsh winter months. In that moment, my above ground fern garden was born.
As with anything I collect, Im always looking for unusual varieties to add. Everywhere we traveled, I bought some kind of fern. Fox tail, rabbit foot, maidenhair, button and birds nest ferns slowly started to unite under the shelter of the cedar tree.
One fern led to two and, before I knew it, the base of the tree was blanketed in a velvety green field. The tree seemed happy with each addition.
One day I noticed a substantial branch sticking straight out like an arrow protruding from the side on the tree. It had been left at some point when the tree had been pruned because the end was flat where it had been separated from the rest of the branch.
Since cedar trees are very strong and rarely break, I felt like it needed something hanging from it. I think it was the trees way of suggesting I hang a fern. So I purchased a Staghorn fern, planted it in a hanging basket and hung it over the limb. When I stood back to look, the setting looked perfect and the tree seemed to smile.
With every year, some ferns would fade away and Id replace them with newer ones. But ever since that day at least 15 years ago, the old cedar tree has been more than willing to shield the potted ferns from the harsh summer rays.
In the winter months, the tree seems almost sad because the ferns are away. But when spring comes, it seems to come alive knowing the ferns are once again at home. To offer their gratitude, the ferns flourished.
As I stood at the base of the tree the other day trying to take in all the beauty of it and the ferns, I was so grateful I had not chopped the tree down all those years ago. Im glad I listened to my inner voice and allowed it to be where it was supposed to be.
Now, every time I drive through our back gate to park, Im greeted by the splendor of nature. It is very calming to me when I gaze at it because it all works together in harmony.
Looking closer at the various fronds of the ferns, I was amazed at how they grew together with each one keeping its own identity. In their graceful entwine, they were actually supporting each other like a living network.
My mind began to wander as I thought how we could all learn a lesson from nature. In nature, things exist in harmony. I couldnt help but ask myself, Why cant we?
Wayne Dyer summed this up beautifully with this quote: A mind at peace, a mind centered and not focused on harming others, is stronger than any physical force in the universe.
Nature seems to have gotten it right. We need to pause, observe and learn!
More with Mark
Mark and Debra Ballards annual New York City holiday trip is Dec. 5-9. Join the Ballards in the Big Apple at the most amazing time of year for Broadway shows, tours, shopping and more. For details, go to www.markballard.com or call 757-6877 and leave your mailing address to receive the information by postal service.
Mark Ballards column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call (478) 757-6877; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or become a subscriber to Marks Facebook page.