You might consider this tree "unfortunate" were it not for the fact that it has somehow managed to grow quite healthy with a shed on one side blocking the afternoon sun, a fence a fence and vegetation on the other side blocking the morning sun and a bunch of bigger trees above it blocking the daytime sun. But I've seen this tree grow pretty big over 15 years with all these obstacles remaining constant.
One thing that helps is that it's an evergreen. When everyone loses their leaves, the evergreen gets to bask in the sun. I have a pear blossom in my yard that buds and blooms before the maple above it gets its leaves. Otherwise it wouldn't get the sun it needs to do all that. Once it has leaves, it's happy to live under the maple, but if the maple grew leaves sooner, the pear blossom never would have made it.
Both the evergreen and pear blossom are able to get what they need to survive, partly because of the kind of tree they are. The evergreen is evergreen, so it gets a good five months out of the year without any competition for sunlight. The pear blossom is an early bloomer, so it gets a valuable month's head start on establishing its leaves and gets all the power it needs to bloom while the maple is still making whirlybirds.
But beyond the tree type...what's in its DNA...the evergreen thrives as an individual by poking its branches out wherever it can to catch sun and rain. Which is why it's so oddly shaped. It is, in fact, NOT oddly shaped, but instead, perfectly shaped to take advantage of its environment. Same with the pear blossom. It's grows thin and tall with more leaves higher up because it competes with two much larger trees and has to find that bit of clear airspace available to wash as much surface area with sun and rain to keep it going.
So there's a tall, fat tree using its tall fatness to make the most of its mission on earth—growth and light. And there's a tall skinny flowering tree that's tall and skinny for the same reasons. They focus what they have on the light, instead of wallowing in the dark focusing on what they don't have.
Most of my life I've resented the body I'm in. Like the evergreen, I'm an apple...leaner legs with all my weight around the middle. It's no mistake I have this body, though. Like the evergreen, the universe planted me where it did for a purpose and I grew as I did—not just size-wise, but every which way—for a purpose, too. Some of the evergreen's awkwardness isn't awkwardness at all, but what that tree needs in order to face the light...how it copes to both protect and expose itself to the right elements. I suppose I'm the same way.
Same with my pear blossom. In fact, one day the maple will have to come down and that pear blossom will change in all sorts of ways because of it, just as the evergreen would change if the shed or one of the trees around it came down. But then again, we don't know what other issues something like that may trigger. Right now, everything is thriving just as it is.
And as long as we allow our special kind of DNA and our weird and awkward ways of coping to keep focusing on our unique missions of growth and light, it's likely we'll continue. What the trees don't have to struggle with, but we do though, is accepting that they will never be an oak or maple—tall with an impressive canopy to drink in the elements. Oaks and maples have their own issues to contend with. The lifespan of a maple, for example, is centuries less than the lifespan of a cedar. But that's just it...the trees don't struggle at all. They just work with what they have and make what they have work.
This is a repost that was originally published on 2/24/14.