Native Son: Grateful

I was feeling pretty bummed out this morning because someone intentionally cut down the little Tulé Tree clone that I planted my first day at the Longview Arboretum. I had consecrated the tree to the memory of Laverne Creech, the 102 year-old mother of Texas horticulture guru Dr. Dave Creech, just about six weeks ago.

The Tulé Tree clone the night that it was planted and consecrated.

It might seem to some people like a silly little thing to get upset over. I can almost hear them, “So you planted a tiny tree and someone cut it down. Waa-waa-waa…get over it!” To me, of course, it was far more than a small tree. It represented deep connections to people I love, a benchmark in my life, and a living bridge between people and the Earth.

Originally planted for timber production, the Little Pine Forest will soon become a meditative Japanese Garden.

Initially, my mind went through a roller coaster ride of emotions, from vengeful anger to deep sorrow to feelings of futility. I sought solace by reading a small pile of the many hand-written letters I’ve collected over the years. (I have saved every hand-written letter I’ve received since high school…more than forty years now.) My emotions went on another wild ride, this time from appreciation of friends and joyous times to heartache from love lost and regret for mistakes I’ve made along my journey through this life.

I look at that stack of letters and I think of all the people who mentored me, helped me, comforted me…invested their time and hopes in me. Propped me up when I needed it. Set me straight when I needed it. Loved me when I didn’t love myself.

A planting of Lindheimer’s Muhly grass marks the intersection of the Great Lawn and a soon to be planted woodland.
Come Spring, the Great Lawn will be covered with festival folks and concert crowds.
Lone decoy seems at peace with the world of the Longview Arboretum. Soon its real-life cousins will join it.

Taking a walk through the arboretum, I look across the entirety of this beautiful place and realize that the little tree was just a tiny part of a much larger whole. Events –both good and bad– happen that can distract us from the big picture of our lives; make us overlook all the blessings that surround us. These events…distractions…this noise goes on constantly. Rude drivers, bad service, lousy coffee—the list goes on forever—are like hungry mosquitoes that divert our attention from all the things that really matter, things for which we should be grateful.

Continued Below

I developed a new perspective about the tree. Life’s problems and tragedies are, of course, mirrored by life in the garden. Springtime blooms…and we rejoice. Storms come…and we clean up. Inspiration arrives…and we plant. Fires rage…and we rebuild. Rains replenish…and we celebrate. Droughts linger…and we survive. Harvest arrives…and we feast. Malicious acts occur…and we find a way to make things right, perhaps even better than before.

In the shadow of the Gazebo, tradesmen put the finishing touches on the pebble beach.

In the end, I am almost thankful for the creep who cut down the tree. Their little moment of malice has reignited my fire. The act that was meant to hurt me did indeed send me on a temporary tumble into an emotional crevasse…but I found fortitude down there instead of despair. I emerge stronger than before, acutely aware and grateful for the beauty in this life.

Sweetgum leaves proudly wear their autumn colors at woodland’s edge.

As this holiday season approaches, I invite you to join me in grateful reflection of all of life’s blessings…even the ones that come disguised as adversities.

And, what the heck…write someone a letter.

Mark Your Calendars! The Longview Arboretum will celebrate the opening of its gift shop, The Gifting Tree, from 6pm to 8pm on Monday, December 2, 2019. (Members get a 5pm jump-start on the occasion.) We’ll have sweet treats, friendly greets, and pickled beets (okay, not pickled beets ). The Arboretum will be open for a night-time stroll, complete with a special visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus! Bring the whole family for an evening filled with holiday memories. For more info, visit us on Facebook or go to

I need a road trip! Let me know if you’d like me to come and speak to your group sometime. I’m low maintenance, flexible, and you know I like to go just about anywhere. No city too big; no town to small. Just send me an e-mail at and we’ll work something out.

Posted by Steven Chamblee
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