How can one little thought touch a stranger's life?
The morning was fresh, the air laden with a rich spice that only the wilderness can offer: an atmosphere free of oil, soot, and modern-day strife. The coffee perked in anticipation, waiting to be sipped. French toast begged to be drowned in pure maple sweetness.
And the first of my guests arrived.
A husband and wife from Alabama traveling to the Pacific Northwest for the first time in their life, ready to embark on their inaugural fly fishing expedition on the Rogue.
While the rest of the world slept, we spoke in hushed voices. Over the course of a few minutes discovered we a couple things in common, one being a love for the written word.
…until today when I received notification from the post office that I had a package waiting. After standing in line a few minutes, the post master brought me a large, yellow envelope from a Jeff Barganier. The name didn’t register and I walked back to my car perplexed. Why would a stranger send me something?
The moment I slit open the package the dam burst and the memories flooded into place. (Including the moment he asked if he could have my mailing address to send me a little something.) In my hands I held a hardbound book with beautiful artwork on the cover beneath a simple title: The Crooked Tree.
The story within the pages proved to be just as simple, but the take-away was incredibly rich and powerful.
The Crooked Tree is a tale about a little seedling beside a stream that initially goes ignored by the entire forest, but as he grows all he wants is to become as big and mighty as his father, the Hickory on the Hill. Then comes the storm that knocks the little tree down. Mangled and twisted, he becomes the butt of all the other trees’ jokes and he despairs of ever having any value. And that’s when everything changes.
A thought changes a life when it's nurtured, allowed to mature, and then is released into the world.
Dave Lambert once wrote, “Nonfiction communicates truth to the intellect, through logical thought. Fiction communicates truth to the heart, through emotion.”
The Crooked Tree does exactly that. As I turned each page I felt a stirring inside and tears welled up. I didn’t just identify with the little tree, for a few minutes I was the little tree. And when I closed the back cover I felt inspired, ready to tackle every obstacle the world keeps knocking across my path.
That’s what writing should do. Fill the reader with a desire to do more, be more, and then challenge her not just to want it, but to act upon that desire.
So as I sit here with my laptop after dark, with a panting pup at my feet, the first mug of hot apple cider of the season by my chair, and a chill autumn breeze playing a mournful tune in the wind chimes, I find myself feeling incredibly encouraged and immensely grateful for the day Jeff went for a walk in the woods and discovered something that made him ask the question, “Lord, how did this tree come to be so crooked?”
And even more thankful for the morning I spent with Jeff and his wife by the river.