One of the traits that endears my husband to me the most is his love for planting trees. When we first got married, we lived in an apartment adjacent to our grocery store with a highway running past and a graveyard behind. My husband and I would much rather have land than material possessions, and therefore our first major purchase as a married couple was a forty-acre piece of property, located on the cusp of the Cumberland Plateau.
He planted apple trees first and watched YouTube videos to learn how to prune them, so the branches resembled the shape of a wine glass. Later, he planted evergreens along the drive, but it was around this time that our house and a portion of our property sold, and we decided to move to a farm in Wisconsin.
In the winter, when we returned to visit family, our other property still hadn’t sold, so my husband dug up a few of his favorite apple trees and took them back with us to Wisconsin. He planted those trees, and later that spring, he planted over five-hundred evergreens, sowed a field with wildflowers, built long, raised beds of raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries, and tested the pH of the soil, to ensure it was acidic enough for the blueberries to thrive.
I loved Wisconsin’s cold, clear skies, the inaugural blanket of untouched snow, and the technicolor return of spring. But by the end of our second winter, I just did not feel like myself. My husband had poured his entire heart into our property, and it showed: he’d gradually remodeled a poorly remodeled 1920s farmhouse (with uneven floors and nearly no 90 degree angles) into a beautiful home with a Russian, two-sided fireplace and landscaped acreage devoid of the trash that had been our gift when we moved in.
And then I asked if we could move back. I’d moved to Wisconsin under a two-year “try it out” plan, but I didn’t think I would cash in my chips before those two years were up. No doubt, he didn’t think I would either. But I was lonely. I missed my family. I remember one night, reading on the couch, and feeling like I didn’t have the energy to climb upstairs to bed.
My husband listed our farm on Zillow two days after I asked him if we could move back. The next morning, I came down in my bathrobe and saw a couple standing in our yard from Madison. A few days after that, another couple from Alaska asked if they could come look. They were the ones who bought it.
Forty acres with a creek became available across from my in-laws, so our family moved back to Tennessee at the beginning of summer, which was as hard for my husband as it was for me to move to Wisconsin during one of the harshest Novembers since the early 1900s. He built a warehouse for his business in the middle of heat so intense, he could wring sweat from his clothes.
Over and over, he said he knew this move was the best decision for our girls, and yet that knowledge didn’t make the transition much easier to bear. My husband had so many homesteading dreams for Wisconsin, and though our acreage in Tennessee is beautiful, it’s hard to transfer those dreams when you know the work that went into them originally and the work that must begin again.
But this past week, my husband started planting fruit trees. I watched him out there, silhouetted against the clear blue sky as he stuck a bare root stick in the ground, and I felt such love for him that I felt my heart would burst.
Later that night, he told me about how, when he was thirteen, he’d planted a helicopter seed from a maple tree into a pot. It grew, so he transferred it to another pot. The tree outgrew that pot, so he planted it in the ground. The last time he was in Pennsylvania, he drove by and looked at that tree and discovered a forty-foot maple.
“Trees are an investment of time,” he said. “I love thinking about somebody walking the property one day and finding a straggly orchard, the trees in rows, so it’s obvious someone planted them a long time ago.”
I thought about that phrase, an investment of time, and how trees are such a picture of marital love. We get married, thinking we’re mighty maples, when we’re only helicopter seeds, tucked into the ground. Over time, through droughts and storms, those seeds take root and grow. They are then planted, and replanted, and replanted again.
Sometimes, as we’ve often seen, the root shock of transition is too difficult for a marriage to survive, and the tree grows no further. But then, someday, if we are patient to water and nurture our marital “trees,” we will be able to return to the place where it all began and see, in the place of helicopter seeds, a mighty, forty-foot maple.
Have you ever gone through a “replanting” as a married couple? If so, what helped your union become stronger in the end?