Natalie Ogbourne

My husband is a mountain goat, climbing and clinging to the unlikeliest of spots with ease. Our children take after him and as soon as they are able, they scramble after him. Those poor, sad souls who aren’t yet able to climb with their daddy stay behind with me, and I shepherd them around the base of whatever the rest are climbing.

Once, when we stopped the HooDoos, a large outcropping of rock formations near Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone, the mountain goat and his offspring leaped from our vehicle, sprinted toward the rocks and started climbing. I followed behind the little one as she toddled at around the base. Her pace allowed me to take in our surroundings. It was not the mountain view that caught my attention, nor the strange shapes of the HooDoos, nor even my little people’s daring feats: It was a tiny pine tree struggling to make a life on a rock.

Surrounded by an insignificant amount of organic debris, there was barely enough dirt scraped together in that spot to allow for germination, let alone growth. Yet, on that rock, it had grown into a perfectly formed, though tiny, tree. That end of the park is dry. Roots, even the minuscule, must go deep to bring up water, but into what?

Into rock.

As I looked around I saw that while the landscape was mostly rock, there were pines of various sizes scattered about. Full and green, they were thriving. On a rock.

I’ve since learned that not as much is required for germination and growth as I had thought, nor are rocks as inhospitable as I believed. Rocks have cracks and water has a tendency to travel upward through them, so if a seed falls into a crack at the end of the growing season, it finds itself in a humid environment, an environment that fosters germination. Even during the fall and winter, the first root will carry water from the crack in the rock to the seed. Warm spring weather will bring leaves and an explosion of growth.


That growth will change the rock. Even that first tiny root exerts pressure on the rock, as much as 750 pounds per square inch. As the tree grows, so will the root, and the force it exerts. The force will open the crack further, changing the face of the surrounding landscape, all because of a tiny but tenacious tree.

The face of the landscape will be changed.

Isn’t a change of landscape what I look toward every day as a mom, as I seek to open the cracks, let in little moisture, shed a little light, and encourage my kiddos to grow? And isn’t a change in landscape what is needed in my own life – a landscape that is different today than it was last year or even last week? Is that not what it is to be transformed?

For a long time I thought that the story of the tree was a simple tale of tenacity, of hanging on. I’m starting to realize that the tale is not as simple as I had believed. Perhaps the story is not the story of the tree, but the changing of the rock.

What is changing the landscape of your life these days?