Chosen for a reason
Talk about an outsider! Connoisseurs of the quirky might enjoy this state champion Camperdown Elm. I do.
This was my chosen site for a recent birthday photo-op (thank you, Bill).
Turning 65 was a tough transition. The elm’s wizened, erratic creepiness made me feel young and lithe.
Viewed from below, branchwork resembles beached octopi. Or Medusa’s headpiece with thrashing snakes.
Come midnight, I imagine it magically uproots itself and lurches along the harbor, limbs writhing in search of victims.
Come summer, it’s lovely. Were these contorted limbs in full leaf, you’d see massed foliage of deep green extending asymmetrically to the ground.
Today as I study the photo, the tree hints at secrets. Stories. To Google, I go.
Planted ten years after Lincoln’s assassination (1875), this Camperdown Elm began its awkward journey toward champion status.
Nearly 150 years later, it stands 20’ tall with a 26’ crown and a 7’ circumference.
Known as the umbrella elm, or weeping elm, Camperdownii is a rare cultivar. A mutant.
Are you a sucker for stories where the outsider becomes a champion? The phrase “fearfully and wonderfully made” comes to mind.
But back to the tree: Wafer-thin seed cases, or samaras, cloak the bare branches in spring. Lime-green and flower-like, each papery wing houses a single secret: a seed with no future.
The tree cannot reproduce itself.
So where did this one come from?
Accident or meant? An outsider, chosen
Dundee, Scotland, circa 1835.
Imagine a whistling Scots woodsman in thick grey socks and plaid kilt. David Taylor, head forester for the Earl of Camperdown, is tramping through the elm forest.
Arrested by a sapling with bizarre, trailing branches, he digs it up. He’s never seen anything like it. Botanically known as a “sport,” the tree seems to be weeping.
Taylor knows mid-Victorians delight in curiosities. He carries the awkward anomaly to the Earl’s gardener, who plants it. (The original sport, now three meters tall, survives to this day.)
The gardener top-grafts part of the sport to a sturdy Wych Elm.
The graft takes. Behold the first Camperdown Elm! Or in Google-brogue, Leuk thaur . . . och, that’s guid!
Knowing the new tree can still revert to its original form, the gardener prunes away Wych boughs in favor of outsider growth.
Here’s what floors me:
Every other incarnation alive today
descends from cuttings taken from the original sport.
I can’t help appreciating afresh the God who champions the outsider.
The One that Mary Magdalene mistook for the gardener on Easter morning, centuries ago.
The One who grafts willing Gentiles into the divine family tree, making altogether-new lives a reality.
Paul says it this way in Romans 11:17-19 (NASB):
17 But if some of the branches were broken off,
and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them
and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree,
18 do not be arrogant toward the branches;
but if you are arrogant, remember
that it is not you who supports the root,
but the root supports you. 19 You will say then,
“Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”
The season of Lent invites personal inventory.
- Am I reverting to pre-graft behavior?
- Have I imposed my ways, or my image on others . . . children, grandchildren, even you, dear readers?
- Will I find my strength in the perfect Root?