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  • rebeccaforster


The other day I came home to find the men I hired to build my patio sitting in my backyard looking at a stump. This was not a normal stump. This was a giant, Paul Bunyan, Big John kind of stump. They had uncovered it while digging the foundation. I sat down with them to consider the stump.

"George had to get his chain saw for that sucker," one of them finally said.

"Took two hours to get it out," another offered.

"I think it broke George's saw," the first chimed in.

"Why didn't you leave it in the ground?" I asked. "You know, pour the cement around it?"

"It wouldn't have been right," the third said.

They told me that they had managed to cut it up into the piece we were looking at, but that it had been twice as big and buried deep in the ground; a remnant of a primordial tree. Their task had been Herculean. They also told me that if they poured the cement over the stump, the darn thing could rot and my steps would fall in, and I would be upset with them because they had poured cement over a stump the size of San Francisco.

"It looks petrified," I said. "How many years do you think it would take to rot?"

The first guy shrugged.

"Twenty. Thirty years."

I shrugged back.

I would probably be dead by the time the stump rotted and my stairs fell in. I guess it was the principal of the thing. They would have known the stump was there, so we sat in the hot sun a while longer. Someone suggested carving the stump into the likeness of the contractor. I thought we could make it into a table. Eventually, we all stopped looking at the stump. The men moved what they could out of the way, and started work again. I went inside to make dinner.

The piece of that stump is still in my backyard. I can't bring myself to get rid of it. Like all things that are hard to get rid of, it taught me something:

1) Everyone has a stump. It might be in your real backyard, your professional backyard, or your personal backyard, but it is there.

2) What you do with your stump will tell you a lot about yourself. Either you will dig it up, leave it to rot, or you will admire the darn thing and make it work with your life.

3) If you're stumped and need help, there is always someone willing to help you, but, in the end, you will have to decide how you overcome the obstacle.

4) You can never go through a stump, but you can go around it, over it and sometimes even under it. Under it takes the longest. I like going over it because the obstacle becomes a step forward.

5) Sometimes stumps are not as big as they look, but sometimes they are bigger than they appear. Size doesn't matter. Stumped is stumped, and you just have to deal with it.

6) Removing a stump but choosing to keep it as a reminder of what stood in your way is a good thing. When you look back, you will see that when it came to you against the stump, you won.

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