If I Were a Tree

I’ll never be a tree, of course. But if I were one, I’ve been thinking lately I’d want to be a Poplar.

There’s such beauty and poise in her pointedness that directs our eyes to the sky and God’s miracles. But her true beauty is mostly unseen in her fortitude even in the most unforgiving conditions and in her roots that unfold and extend beneath the soil like a motherly octopus.

Instead of hoarding the nutrients for herself, she’s a boundless supplier of them as she interconnects with other trees and pours oxygen and joy into the atmosphere through her branches and leaves for all those around her.


I didn’t act much like a Poplar when I yelled at my preteen son, my boy in the middle, not so long ago for something that didn’t deserve the tone I used.

Not to excuse my behavior that day, but I was tired, worrying about lots of stuff, feeling unfocused, pulled in so many directions, and my words darted at him like sharp, brittle weeds. As I yelled, I saw his leaves drop one by one, roots loosening as he quietly walked upstairs to his room and closed the door.

I try to be an oxygen-giver, not a taker, best I can. But sometimes, okay a lot of times, I fail, especially when my life is out of balance. And when I fail as a mom, it hurts most of all. That failed moment in which I sucked oxygen out of that space between mother and son, rather than fill it up, is one that will most likely be embedded in my mind and heart forever, although I did my best to make it right again.

I didn’t go upstairs to him right away. He had the right to spend time not liking his mother, experiencing her in an unfamiliar light. But before too much time passed, I climbed the steps, knocked, walked in, wrapped my motherly octopus arms around his lengthy figure stretched out on the bed, his face turned toward the wall, and I said, “I’m so sorry.”

With only slight hesitation, he turned and hugged me back, replenishing the nutrients depleted within me, his forgiveness and fortitude bursting through me like a majestic crown.

Spring in the Northern Hemisphere has sprung. March 20th marked the Vernal Equinox, which is when those of us up in this neck of the woods start tilting toward the sun, while those poor southerly folks start to tilt away from it.

As hundreds of millions of people celebrate Easter around this time, which for many marks the end of a  40-day fast, fertility returns to the land after the long desolation of winter. Bulbs buried in the ground pop back up with another chance at life.

Regardless of where we come from or what we believe, I imagine, deep down, we all long for the renewal and rebirth that spring and Easter represent. Each of us longs to be wrapped in the arms of fortitude and forgiveness, even in the most unforgiving conditions.

Most likely, none of us will ever be a tree. But it’s never too late for a new seedling to be planted, to unfold and extend, to burst through the soil and reemerge as an oxygen-giver. Like a Poplar aiming for the sun.


I’m Julie Jo Severson, mom of three and freelance writer. I launched this blog Carvings On A Desk in 2015. It’s where I connect with my own voice, write the stories down, and doodle about past, present, future clinking glasses and making peace. To see my other recent posts, click here.

About Julie Jo Severson

Julie Jo Severson, former PR girl, is now a freelance writer, journalist, editor, and lost-and-found attendant for two teens and a tween. This is where she doodles about past, present, future clinking glasses and making peace.

24 comments on “If I Were a Tree

  1. I find it quite ironic that I started reading this post yesterday, and while my kids began to wrestle- increasing the intensity of attacks- Cass finally got hurt- it all blew up as Cade stormed off and cried and Cass said mean things…

    Then I blew.

    Ironic, right? Ugh.

    I want to be that tree too. And this time of year is one of hope for me- much like you said here. Renewal. Oh Lord, how I need that.

    Thank you for this beautiful read, my friend. <3

    • Christine! I’m sorry that you blew it, but can I just say how relieved I am to know that somebody like you, who I know is an amazing mother, sometimes blows it too! Spinning my wheels here a little when it comes to being the kind of mother I truly want to be, and you’re always so encouraging and inspiring.

  2. I love trees and feel most at peace when surrounded by their generosity! I love your story of the Poplar tree. I too know the remorse of yelling at a son and wonder why my brain only remembers my failed moments. Wishing you and your house a very beautiful spring filled with new life.

  3. This is lovely, your imagery is just perfect!! Man I want to be an oxygen giver too, next time I get frustrated with my kids I’m going to try to picture trees!

  4. This piece completely touched me deeply. It sounds like our children are about the same ages, and failure as a mother is the most poignant pain I’ve ever felt. Thank heavens for forgiveness.

  5. This beautiful, and could relate so much. Having a rough week with my fifteen year-old. This here: “Regardless of where we come from or what we believe, I imagine, deep down, we all long for the renewal and rebirth that spring and Easter represent. Each of us longs to be wrapped in the arms of fortitude and forgiveness, even in the most unforgiving conditions.” Oh yes!

    • Hi Allie, yes, I have a 15-year-old, too. Thank goodness she’s a runner, so that keeps her out of trouble. You’re very busy right now with your new job, so I really appreciate that you took the time to stop by.

  6. Beautiful article and so, so true. I have few regrets with the biggest one being my unwarranted harshness with my son during his tween/teen years. When moms ask me advice about parenting teens I always say, “Go easy on them and be kind.” Your article is a lovely illustration of that sentiment.

    • Thank you Coach Lisa! Sorry I didn’t respond sooner. I was on spring break trip:) I’m so honored you stopped by. Oy, I hear you about that sort of regret for unwarranted harshness. I remember one older mom telling me, “you’re gonna wish you hadn’t made such a big deal about things later on.”

  7. This is beautiful. Truly. Such a great reminder too of what our impatient and harsh words do to our kids. I love the way that you did this. Also, I’ve been meaning to write something for your anthology forever and yikes! I better start something!!!

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