When Tainan Theological College held a groundbreaking ceremony before construction of a new library building a few years ago, the site was prettified by arranging about eight potted trees around it. They were spindly, standing 6 feet tall in small pots. After the ceremony the the ceremony venue became the project staging yard, and heavy equipment began to dig the foundation and two-level basement. The potted trees were moved to a place near the fence, where they were neglected.
I walked along that fence between home and office, noticing the trees withering away. I requested them and was given both permission and possession. When I scavenged them up, the first thing I did was a generous watering. Planting would come a few days later.
Late on a Saturday morning I put 4 in the backyard of my little residence and four more along the notional line between my yard and the college guest house next door. All those in the backyard died, partly because of the lack of sunlight there but mainly because of my ignorance regarding the ways of trees. The ones out front thrived, though getting them there almost killed me. The earth in the place where I chose to plant them was rock hard. The tools I had for excavating were inadequate, and the sunshine at the time of day I chose for the project was much too strong.
On a late-May day at my retirement home in Michigan, I set out to pull some long grass. It had grown alongside fence where the lawnmower doesn’t reach. The weather was pleasant and the sky overcast. I wasn’t working in direct sun, but it didn’t take long before I felt like I was planting trees in Taiwan again.
As much as I might like to quote Psalm 18 about being able, by the power of God, to leap over a wall, I’m beginning to understand that those were the words of a younger person.
David Alexander now walks around walls and through gates in Michigan after 39 years in Taiwan.