Dead of winter is tree-planting time here in Mississippi, and we’re so
blessed that one of our biggest industries creates a skyline of timber, a
bounty of fresh air, and tall forests for God’s critters.
Planting pines and oaks on a muddy, 80 acre clear cut near my house last
month, reminded me that tree farming takes some faith and vision and
patience. If you take a few steps back from a fresh seedling, you can hardly
see it, and by this summer, it’ll be totally hidden by blackberry briars. But
when next winter’s frost turns the weeds dusky brown, I’ll look across these
rolling hills and see little green saplings about knee high. And a couple
years after that, they’ll be ten feet tall and this bare dirt landscape will
become a forest again.
Seedlings don’t all grow fast, though. Loblolly pines are sprinters, but
oaks take their time developing roots beneath the surface in a slow, steady
marathon that continues long after evergreens have peaked and passed on.
You don’t actually plant oak trees for yourself; you plant them for those that
follow, because a lovely forest has a succession of younger saplings lifting
their faces and hands to heaven beneath a monarch whose journey nears its
Amazingly, what these trees need most are all things you can’t buy like
sunshine, rain, and changes of season to give them alternating spurts of
growth with some pauses to drop their leaves and rest.
Turns out that seedlings are a lot like children. They start off so small
that they’re easy to miss, and they don’t all grow the same rate or shape.
Spending time with them is kind of like planting an oak tree. You might not
see much progress for a while, and you may never live to see them reach
their full potential.
Hopefully one day, though, they’ll lift their faces and hands to heaven,
enjoy the things money can’t buy, and plant little seedlings of their own.
And maybe the best way to live on isn’t to try prolonging your own life, but
rather to pour into a little sprout so that perhaps your memory will live on as
a smile in their heart.
Col. Craig Ziemba, USAF, ret. 
Craig has served eight combat deployments 
and is a pilot who lives in Laurel.
view more of his journal posts
his book 37 Near Death Experiences now available