There is something very special about the live oaks here on North Carolina's Crystal Coast. They seem to be from another time and place.
Perhaps they have grown in ways that we will never understand. Their long twisting branches seem like arms that embrace you.
At the same time, the tree itself seems to mirror the complexity of life. Sometime I look at the branches of a live oak and realize that it takes great concentration to really map those limbs and understand where they are going and how they are intertwined.
When you get past sixty, you tend to look at where you came from, what you have accomplished, and what you might still have time to do. You learn to follow the big branches and not worry so much about the twigs.
I cannot tell how a live oak will grow in the next few years. The twists and turns are in response to forces that I cannot measure or control. While I seemingly have more control over my life, the reality is that any of us can be snatched from this earth at any time.
It is important to make the best use of our time and to live a life that creates memories that are larger than us. None of us are here for much longer than a blink of an eye when we look at those who have gone before us and those who will come later.
If we take the easy way and shy away from the big challenges, the memories will always be small. However, if we push ourselves and reach for the important things for those around us, we have a chance to create some memories which will warm the thoughts of those we have loved long after we are gone.
I would rather be remembered for my efforts than just for what I have achieved. There are things which I have yet to achieve that have required more work, commitment, and resources than things which I managed to achieve years ago.
The beauty of a live oak is not in its main trunk but in its canopy which strives to block the sun from the ground while withstanding the coastal winds. If the branches stretch too far from the trunk the tree will collapse. It has to have balance.
Our lives are not necessarily a sum of our accomplishments. The live oak today is not valued mainly for its trunk. Its canopy provides shade and beauty that are likely worth far more than the trunk which is often the measure of a tree's worth.
In a similar way our efforts even when they are not successful might be a better measure of our lives than purely our accomplishments. It is a paradox of a life that we try to measure each other by what we have accomplished when what we might have tried and failed might be even more valuable as a yardstick.