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The Point of it All

Alas, another tree photo. Or is it? Perhaps you've seen this tree before a time or two. Read on for its history, as context leads to understanding and ultimately, meaning.

I particularly like this picture, and I only took it as a last-minute whim before moving on to other vantage points. If you read Southern Holly, you’ve seen this tree before though you may not have known it. Three pictures, from three different stances, and each time you get a completely different look and feel.

Is it not the same way with people?

Context is everything. Carefully crafted outward appearances never tell the whole story. In one photo, the tree is perfectly framed by opposing shrubbery, perhaps on a road. Another picture shows you that its roots are deep under an old dirt road. And the last leaves you dizzy in its complexity.

And yet still, there is more to the story.

I stand looking out from where a simple porch, on an even simpler house, once stood. Years ago, after almost 150 years, this modest home was torn down before it was condemned. The only markers of its existence are the trees, an abandoned hog pen on the losing end of a battle with time itself, and the memory of a chosen few.

My great-grandparents lived in that small farmhouse. My Granny was raised in it too. That tree has seen more generations of my family tree than I ever have. And it stands still.

A tree is never just a tree. A person is never just a person. We can get so wrapped up in our own growth and life that we cannot see past the initial glance of another. First impressions can be a guide, but too often we let them become the sum total. What is missing is…context.

Every day we craft our appearance, aiming to give the proper perception of ourselves. But in the end, it is just a perception. It is not our essence, our experiences, the why behind everything we do.

We choose the distance and breadth of those we interact with. Very few people wind up knowing us in totality. But that should not deter us from getting to know other sides of one another. With context comes understanding, respect, and camaraderie.

And so I am back on that plot of land, camera in hand, wondering if this tree perhaps knows as much about me as I know about it. It probably does.

Single photo shots and first impressions can be misleading and only a superficial view. Would you have guessed the history of the tree based on a well-framed photo? Or would you have left with a quick thought of beauty and clicked next?

When you know the history of the tree, does the picture have more meaning?

Let’s swap out two words in that question. Replace the words ‘tree’ and ‘picture’ with ‘person.’

When you know the history of the person, does the person have more meaning?

And that my friends, is the point of it all.

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Charlotte A. Cason
Charlotte A. Cason
Jan 12, 2023

Wow, you blew me away with this. So very true. It reminded me of Robert Frost's poem, Revelation, in which he says how sad it is that we have to speak the literal to get the understanding of a friend. I think Frost would have agreed with what you wrote. Hope you can find a copy of that poem and read it. I know you'll like it and understand it.

Holly Bills
Holly Bills
Jan 12, 2023
Replying to

I am so glad it resonated with you! I really enjoyed writing this piece. Robert Frost's poem Revelation will be put on my reading list.

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