“Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste it’s fragrance on the desert air.“ — Thomas Gray
Spring in my part of the Pacific Northwest looks like a blanket of green velvet has covered the valley floor. As clouds move across the sky the velvet undulates from an apple to emerald green and fruit trees, with pastel bursts of color, tint the landscape with colors that even artists envy. If you travel to higher elevations, the shrubs and grasses of the lowlands are replaced with dense forests of Douglas fir rooted in gray duff covered soils.
As you approach the high desert, soils becomes red and pine forests replace those of fir. Once you’re east of the Cascade mountains and in the outback there is another dramatic change in the landscape. Water is sparse and can no longer support the growth of pines, so the only trees you see are an occasional Juniper and miles and miles of sagebrush and bunchgrass. It was here I had an epiphany.
There is an hundred mile stretch of highway that extends from Bend to Burns Oregon. It is as monotonous as drives I’ve taken through Spain and West Texas. In Spain you can drive that distance and see only olive trees. In West Texas cactus, scrub brush and wind farms line a hundred miles stretch of highway that’s guaranteed to put all but the driver to sleep. In Oregon, the hundred miles between Bend and Burns is so dry that even sagebrush struggles to survive.
That’s why the sudden appearance of a lone, perfectly formed, Juniper caught my eye and set me thinking. How did that happen? It obviously was not planted. There was no visible source of water and certainly nothing to protect it from high winds and the storms that must surely pummel it in winter. And yet there it stood.
That set me thinking about people. I’ll wager you have known children of adversity who, for whatever reason, have been inadequately parented. And while it doesn’t often happen, I also wager that you’ve also seen one or two of these kids escape their backgrounds and thrive, far exceeding anyone’s expectations of what they could accomplish or become.
They are like that Juniper tree. Something we can’t see, whether it is intrinsic to them or a factor in their environment, makes this phenomenon possible. For the tree I’m sure there is a genetic predisposition that explains its perfect form. I’m also sure it has a water source that that is not available to the scrub that surrounds it.
And I suspect that as a child, adult survivors of horrid childhoods had people outside their homes who listened to them, opened doors and helped define a better life. Armed with the support of older friends and the lessons that only bad examples can teach, these kids made it out and up. They saw change as a chance to grow and they believed they could change their lives, so, as adults, I suspect they are passionate about all their pursuits and embrace life and the good and bad of all its lessons. I also suspect they will never forget the helping hands and willing ears that made their adult lives possible. With the arrogance of youth behind them, they only smile when others speak of self-made men.