Essay: Asymmetry

Apr 9, 2018

A big silver maple lives a couple blocks from me, taller than any house on the street. Staring up, I notice how crooked the tree is, how unbalanced where its branches have been chopped off. Year after year, the city crews have trimmed it to make room for power lines.

My neighborhood is full of such trees—maples and oaks that have survived generations of hand saws and chain saws. Stripped of their symmetry, these trees find another way to be beautiful. And now, as spring arrives, their remaining branches are fat with buds. Soon they will be thick with leaves, reaching across the streets in canopies of shade.

Bicycling past them, I admire these old trees and wish I were as forgiving as they are, as resilient. Wish I could accept, as gracefully as they do, awkward transformations.

Few of us reach maturity without getting trimmed, without losing parts of ourselves. Nobody asks our permission before they arrive with their saws and leave us lopsided.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep my balance. To keep believing I have something to offer, a reason to keep going and growing, season after season. Like the old trees that leaf out, with whatever they have left.