Back in 2008, I went to a women's weekend at Waverley Abbey House entitled "Seasons of the Spirit". During one session we were invited to find a tree or shrub that represented the season we felt we were in. I "adopted" the bare tree on the right. It had an infection so had been pruned hard to ensure its survival.
Every time I visit Waverley, I now check on "my" tree's progress, which at times has seemed almost non-existent. However, the photos I have taken of the view at least once a year tell a different story. It shows the tree’s gradual recovery unfolding through the seasons.
The tree has become a symbol of hope and renewal, not just for me, but also for other women who have felt severely pruned and damaged by life events.
So I felt very protective of the tree when I heard someone say that they wished the tree had not survived. Someone else commented that it was an example of a tree that had been badly pollarded. They seemed to dismiss the signs of growth and only judged it by its current outward appearance.
Yet who are we to judge the shape and state of this survivor? I recently discovered an old drawing that shows that the tree was already around in 1840, reminding me of the importance of taking a long view.
The second tree from the same period is just a stump now. Its trunk snapped in a storm two years ago whilst its seemingly crippled neighbour stood strong, a reminder that outward beauty and growth can hide inner decay.
It does not look as if that tree will ever grow again, but I have decided to suspend judgment. I have been told that its branches now provide shelter for ducks and other nesting water fowl. So the end of its story is still being written.
When things don't seem to go according to plan, I feel crippled or just frustrated at the slow rate of my transformation and growth, I remind myself that my story too is not yet finished - but I have already been told it has a very happy ending.
About the author: Sue Irving is the co-ordinator for the Creative Communicators in Petersfield. She has co-written a book with her husband John about their experiences when climbing Kilimanjaro. It is aimed at both trekkers and those who are going through a dark time in their lives. How to conquer a mountain: Kilimanjaro lessons is available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon, with all proceeds going to charity. The German translation of the book is due to be published this summer.