Stand Tall or Fall?

The tide deposited a massive stump on the shore. Its weathered appearance indicated a lengthy time drifting along the waters. I ran my fingers across the ridged growth rings.

A seasoned forester can look at the rings and know if it was a year of moisture or drought. Lighter rings are formed in the spring, darker ones in the summer. Together they form one growth ring. This stump had at least 250 rings.

I sat on it and considered where it had once grown and how many seasons it had seen before it had been cut down. It was probably a sapling when Native American tribes spied the first explorers and fur trappers on the Olympic Peninsula. On the other side of the continent, patriots were preparing for the American Revolution.

I counted off the rings and imagined what our nation faced at the time— the Battle of the Alamo, the Mexican-American War and Native Americans on the Trail of Tears.

I counted more rings—and thought of my great grandparents struggling along the Oregon Trail with their covered wagons filled with farming implements, hearts of hope, and not much more.

During the tree's centennial years, the American Civil War was fought. Now as a tall, massive tree it was no longer in a territory but had become part of Washington State—in honor of the nation’s first President.

As World War I was being fought, many of the woodland loggers who lived nearby enlisted. Some would never again see these mammoth forests. More wars would follow, but never on the soil where the tree reached its full height. In the nation that invented the devastating atom bomb, scientists also sent men to the moon expanding unimaginable possibilities.

I watched waves wash against a tree stump that was as old as our nation. Once deep-rooted and mighty, it had faced many storms, until someone had cut it down.

I can’t help but wonder about our nation. Will we be like the old mammoth tree, cut down and the stump set adrift?

Rubbing my fingers over the growth rings, I thought of the tough years our nation faced. Our leaders didn’t always make the best decisions, but we stood united and helped right the wrongs.

We can't be distracted by politics or self-interest. We need informed citizens studying for themselves what is happening on our borders and across our nation. We need people to vote and be active in the process.

We just celebrated our nation's independence but I wonder how our generation will be remembered?  Will we stand tall or fall? Future generations depend on our choices.

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