If I had to guess, I’d say the vast majority of people who live in this valley love taking a walk in forested areas. We are incredibly blessed to have countless numbers of trails to choose from. Some are extremely challenging and difficult, due to elevation gain and loss and/or distance, while others are far simpler requiring comparatively little effort.

Perhaps the dynamic nature of forest trails account, in part, for the vast appeal. Light, temperature, smells, trail consistency, and sounds all vary from step to step and every forest trail is unique.

We just returned from a short trip to visit one of our daughters who is away at college in the south. Her university is surrounded by thousands of acres of trees and trails. One morning, we ventured out for a stroll on one of the trails. As we made our way along, we began to notice that a number of trees had burls of various shapes and sizes. Some of the burls were high up in the trees, while others were quite low to the ground.

As I understand it, folks don’t completely know why burls form to begin with, but lots of people believe burls happen due to some source of stress to a tree, such as insects, fungus, bacteria, or environmental issues. Others think genetic factors play a role, but whatever the reason, some burls are spectacular and are sought after by artisans. While burls do not affect the life of a tree, sadly sometimes thieves looking for some dollars, cut burls out of trees. If left alone, however, burls can grow quite large.

On our recent walk, I began thinking about burls, how the wood within them can be so stunning, and how in fact they are not really detrimental to a tree’s overall health. In fact it is the stress to the tree that shapes burls into objects of beauty to begin with. Isn’t it intriguing that imperfections in the trunks of trees are in part what makes them so astonishing and valued by those paying attention. It is their imperfections that make them unique, interesting, and full of character.

In reflecting upon trees and burls, I have to wonder what it might be like if we viewed our own imperfections or those of others in the same way? That is, is it not our imperfections that makes each of us unique, of value, and interesting? Paul, from one version of the Bible writes, “Each one of us is an original.” And I would add, we are beautifully original precisely because of who we are due to our strengths, weaknesses, and yes, imperfections.

In nature I find most things to be perfectly imperfect. I pray that one day, we as human beings, will learn to view each other with the same lens. Doing so would not only create more loving hearts, but far more humility, something I believe is desperately needed in this era.