The Things We Plant Last Longer Than Our Houses

A master gardener at this seminar I went to last weekend mentioned that there are homesteads in Texas where you can see the chimney that used to be a house, and see the fields open and barren, and there’s a pear tree rising up above the ground, reaching wide arms out, like a memorial. Pears every year, for hundreds of years, to live and live long.

I drive around town and see these Texas oaks people plant in their yards. They’re native trees and huge and beautiful. They will live a thousand years.

Can you honestly say in five hundred years that there will be a city here? Can anyone honestly believe that our land and lot and house is so permanent as a tree?

There’s shrubs in our yard – Texas Sage – that seem so small compared to the house. Yet, they will live. When the roof caves in and the hard drought time comes, the sage will live.

Planting perrenials in the yard is the true mark we make. The rest is just ornamentation. Furniture and remodeling and painting and all the noise and activity that makes our houses lovely and warm in winter – all just trivial ornamentation compared to the trees we plant, and the perrenial things that will outlast us all.

My neighbor moved out here, once, when it was all forest to live in the forest. The houses came, he told us, all in a flash a decade ago, and he doesn’t like that. He wants to move out and away into the woods again. The developers tore down the woods to build houses. Now it’s a suburban place, stripped to the bone. This is a temporary thing. The land would prefer to be a forest. It remembers how to be a forest. My neighbors planted trees, all in a flood, to shade our houses and our barren lawns. We all planted trees. They grow tall.

Someday, our ghosts will haunt the trees. There will only be trees. Grasses that rise and fall with a ferocity that we can barely wrap our heads around with the long, slow, forgetful memory that ghosts have. We’ll sit in the swooping branches and when the seedlings of our trees rise up tall and proud and strong, while the elder statesmen of the new forest bend down, we will sink into the earth with our trees and stare up and wonder the true legacy on the land of long, long life, a forest and a forest and a forest as far as the hills can roll away from us.

The things we plant last longer than our houses.

Choose well what you place upon the ground. You are just the temporary steward in service to something older than we can ever know.

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