Battle Scars


We went to the swimming area of Pedernales Falls State Park  for the first time this year.

Every year I think that this time the trees along the river bank really are dead. The floods really did it this time. Nothing could possibly look deader than these cypresses. And from a distance, nothing could look uglier either.

Leaning downstream, almost every limb broken at some point or another, often with the tops ripped off, driftwood and other river debris stuck against their trunks and in their branches–the violence of the winter floods is evident.

They are as colorless as a thirty-year-old cedar fence, all their life seemingly washed out, sucked out, torn out by the force of the raging river.

But then I get closer and I see the trees’ roots–immense, strong, unwielding–and I understand why they are still standing, against all odds. Washed bare, battered by stones—I saw rocks with a two-foot diameter lodged in new places—their determination is expressed in sheer size and length. Many roots have been hollowed out by the water until they seem more like gutters that drain vitality from the tree rather than roots that suck life into it. But the wood is still alive. For the roots the time between floods is time to rebuild, reinforce, expand, and prepare for the next onslaught.

Contrary to appearances, these trees will be green again a month from now, offering wonderful, shimmering shade across a calm river and inviting sand, providing one of the most peaceful, relaxing pieces of paradise around. I hope.

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