On Interstate 80 in Wyoming between Cheyenne and Laramie you’ll find a spindly Limber pine growing out of a rock. According to legend, it’s been a source of interest since surveyors for the Union Pacific Railroad first saw it in the spring of 1868. These days there’s a fence around it and a sign for interested travelers who stop for a look.
Here’s what the sign says:
“This small pine tree that seems to be growing out of solid rock has fascinated travelers since the first train rolled past on the Union Pacific Railroad. It is said that the builders of the original railroad diverted the tracks slightly to pass by the tree as they laid rails across Sherman Mountain in 1867-1869. It is also said that the trains stopped here while locomotive firemen gave the tree a drink from their water buckets. The railroad moved several miles to the south in 1901 and the abandoned grade became a wagon road.
In 1913 the Lincoln Highway Association was formed To procure the establishment of a continuous improved highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The Lincoln Highway was an instant success in a nation enamored with the newfangled automobiles and eager for a place to drive them. The Lincoln passed right by Tree Rock as did U.S. 30 in the 1920’s and Interstate 80 in the 1960’s. At this place the road was approaching the 8835-foot Sherman Summit, the highest point on the Lincoln. The view of the surrounding mountains was like nothing that westbound easterners had ever seen. Still they noticed the little tree, which became the favored subject of many early postcards and photographs. It still is.
The tree is a somewhat stunted and twisted Limber pine (Pinus Flexilis), a type of tree commonly found in this area where ponderosa and limber pines dominate the landscape. The age of the tree is unknown, although limber pines can live as long as 2,000 years. The tree grows out of a crack in a boulder of Precambrian era pink Sherman granite formed more than 1-4 billion years ago.”
I used to think this was an amazing story, and a great lesson about compassion and survival.
I do have fondness for those railroaders who watered that little tree. On this particular stretch of highway you have to be tough to survive. The wind blows like crazy and the elevation makes it cold much of the year.
Recently I began to view this tree as a metaphor for life.
My life to be precise.
I thought about the hard things. The struggles. The areas where I haven’t gotten enough of what I need.
The good news is I’m not a limber pine stuck in a chunk of granite, trying to suck nourishment from a rock.
I can move away from everything that holds me back, stunts my growth or just doesn’t nourish me.
But I don’t always.
There are times when I’ve stayed with a job or a project or sometimes even a friendship that depleted me.
I stuck it out because I thought it was what I was supposed to do.
I didn’t want to be a quitter-someone who didn’t follow through.
Can you relate?
These days I have a different outlook.
With each passing year I realize more sharply that life is precious and wonderful.
And we are here such a very short time.
I don’t want to waste even a moment of it.
No more trying to find life from a tiny crevice in a rock when there is lovely, rich, life-enhancing soil available.
What about you?
Are you trying to get by on too little that nourishes you?
If so, I hope you’ll join me in getting our roots into the most life-enhancing, soul-nourishing venture we can find.
I’m eager to know what yours might be.
And I’ll keep you posted on mine.