The volunteer tree

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, September 2, 2021

Thank you, thank you, dear coffee companions, for all the 80th-birthday greetings you sent my wife’s way in response to last week’s column.

In the spirit of that column, Mary Anna and I were sitting on our garden swing this past Sunday crunching apples as loudly as possible, when we happened to notice how beautiful our mountain ash across from us was, with its thousands and thousands of red berries.

Reflecting on it, we realized an important lesson about the value of volunteering. But I’ll let Mary Anna tell the story behind that. Mary Anna?

A MOUNTAIN ASH had been on my wish list for a long time. The tree has clusters of bright red berries hanging from branches of fern-like leaves. During autumn those leaves turn shades of glorious orange-reds. Such a tree would certainly enhance my garden. I used to look at my garden from our kitchen window trying to plan the best placement of a mountain ash.

One spring I noticed a seedling growing that I hadn't planted in the garden. On further inspection, I realized that it might be a mountain ash. I wasn't sure how it got there, but I suspected that a bird had dropped the seed and "fertilizer" in passing one day, and the seedling took root. I accepted the gift and nurtured it over the years. Amazingly, it was in an ideal spot in the garden.

After many years, one spring the tree finally produced a few blooms which became those beautiful red berries mid-summer. And, yes, the leaves transformed the tree into rich colours in the fall. Now, many years later, my mountain ash which volunteered to grow in my garden when a bird dropped off the gift of a seed so many years ago is in its glory, with hundreds of clusters of red berries hanging from branches of fern-like leaves.

THIS AMAZING TREE, a volunteer? WOW!

Here’s the lesson that occurred to Mary Anna and me: If you sometimes feel your volunteer contributions to life are of no more value than a tiny seed in a bird dropping, remember our beautiful mountain ash.


© 2021 Warren Harbeck

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