The four redwoods

A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.
—Ecclesiastes 4:12

Four redwood trees grow in my yard: three in one corner, a fourth by itself in another. The three that grow together shelter each other, and each one receives shade from the others at some point during the sun-drenched day.

Three redwood sentinels stand guard at one corner of the yard.

Each summer, right about this time, I start to fret about the fourth one standing alone. Its needles brown, despite the drip hose, evening waterings, and prayers.

The lone redwood, more sparse and brown than its three neighboring redwoods

While watering this lone tree one recent night, I recalled the passage from Ecclesiastes about the three cords. I looked over at the three redwoods and back to the single one.

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up … And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. —Ecclesiastes 4:9–10, 12

Cords don’t necessarily resonate with me, but trees do. I can understand what these four trees are telling me. I see the green needles with just a few brown places here and there among the three redwoods. These three trees give me a better appreciation of what Ecclesiastes is trying to say.

Green needles abound on the three trees growing together.

I look up at the browning needles of the lone tree, knowing there is no room to plant a companion. And I see truth written in its needles. “Woe to the one … when there is not another to lift him up.”

I watch as the dragonflies dance around its branches, darting in and out of the spray of the hose. The lone tree teems with life but also hints at death.

When rains fell this past winter and spring, all four trees added new growth, bright green clumps of needles at the tips of the dark green branches. Those new needles spoke of joy and hope, breathing out almost palpable sighs of relief for an end to the drought. They couldn’t have suspected the brutal summer to come.

Now, facing heat wave after heat wave, the three trees stand together, as if to say, “Be strong, my friends. Together we can survive this.”

The lone tree has my husband and me as its other two cords. And each summer, I hope we’re enough.


People are like trees in some ways, aren’t they? Stronger together, able to face adversity because they have others to lean on. How have you found this true in your own life?

2 thoughts on “The four redwoods

  1. You’ve written so beautifully about a simple truth. I have absolutely experienced this is in my own life, over and over and over again…finding strength alongside others, as well as standing apart and all alone.

    • Thank you for your kind words. Even simple truths can take a long time to sink in, and part of moving here has taught me this truth in a harder way than I’d care to admit. I’m grateful for the cords God has given me in life, friends and family both near and far in geography, but all near in my heart. You, my friend, are one of those cords, and I’m grateful for you.

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