When is a tree no longer a tree?

What do you think? When is a tree no longer a tree? You can probably conceive of many answers to this question. Perhaps, a tree is no longer a tree when:

  • it is firewood? 
  • it is a table?

Yes, I can see how those answers make sense.

I have something a little different in my mind. You see, a couple of months ago we had an early morning storm blow through our neighborhood. It was intense. The winds were howling. The rain sounded like a thousand drummers beating on our bedroom windows. You can imagine the thunder and lightning accompanying such a storm, I am sure.

Well, at first light I went out to survey the damage in our backyard. Lots of things were rearranged on the patio; but, everything appeared to be in good condition. 

Then I noticed the damage.


The tree closest to our house was down. The trunk had been snapped off about a foot above the base and the wounded, dying remains were stretched out on the ground. I administered last rites. Later, with my bow saw in hand I prepared the corpse for burial (or removal to the dump). 

It was a sad day. I had such great hopes for that tree. It was positioned in just the right place to eventually provide evening shade for the side patio, just outside the master bedroom. Alas! This hope would never be realized. The tree was gone. The future was lost.

What should have followed is a story of diligence. It would be good if I could report on my industry in removing the stump of the now deceased and recently departed tree. However, I procrastinated. Within a few weeks, though, I noticed a change in the ragged stump left behind. There was new growth. There was fresh life emerging from the broken mess that remained.

This brings me to the point. When is a tree no longer a tree? Based on my observations, it is when it becomes a bush! 


There is now a beautiful bush occupying the former residence of the downed tree in our backyard. The ugly, ragged stump is concealed. The new growth not only covers the jagged edges of the remains, it also provides protection for all who might stumble upon it in the future.

This bush has become a living metaphor to me. It is teaching me life-lessons too. Things like:

  • the importance of having a well-developed support (root) system
  • resiliency sometimes requires repurposing in order to move ahead
  • things are not always what they seem to be.

There are so many more observations which could be made; but, these stay with me as I reflect on my dearly-loved, recently-departed tree-friend. Now, instead of death and destruction my memory is full of visions of renewal and life. In the place of despair, hope. In the place of disappointment, expectation. 

It is just a tree that became a bush, right? No, not at all! It is so much more. It is a reminder that in most of life’s situations there is much more going on than meets the eye. We should expect to be surprised and amazed. Perhaps we would all be encouraged if we saw more than trees in the forests we pass through. Maybe, we should notice the bushes too!

© Bill Williams, a fellow sojourner

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