Superman and I nearly went to the pokey this week.
It all started innocently enough. We decided several months ago to spend our vacation in the beautiful New Mexico mountains. Friends of ours just happen to own some vacation rental property in Ruidoso, and we spent a couple of days hiking and sightseeing in Cloudcroft. Which, by the way, is one of the most interesting and beautiful places I’ve ever been in my life. You can stand on the highest mountain and easily see into the White Sands desert, just sixteen miles away. You can be sweating in a tank top at the bottom of the mountains, and need a winter jacket at the top.
But I digress.
The S-man and I went back and forth, trying to decide on a worthwhile souvenir. We’re not really t-shirt kinda people, and our t-shirt drawers are already stuffed too full to close properly. Jewelry’s always a nice option for me, or maybe some handcrafted pottery by a regional artist. Yes please.
But Superman’s a little harder to satisfy. He likes trees. And he really wanted to bring back a blue spruce, to see if it would grow in Texas.
So off to the local Ruidoso nursery we went, to find a blue spruce. Yes, they had them. And they nearly wanted our next-born child as payment. Since delivery on that payment would put us in the Abraham and Sarah category, we decided to think on it a while.
As we drove away, I looked at all the lovely blue spruce and pine and fir trees lining the roads. “There are so many. We could just dig one up and take it home with us.”
I WAS KIDDING. I was kidding.
But Superman got so excited he nearly had a wreck. “Yes, we could!”
Visions of Bonnie and Clyde in the getaway car flashed through my mind, and my heart went into hummingbird mode. This could be dangerous.
And very, very wrong.
Thus began our research on the best places near Ruidoso to steal a tree. Or so I thought. Fortunately, Superman possessed a little chunk of information I’d never heard of.
It’s perfectly legal to dig a tree from a National Forest.
Now, just to be clear, you DO need a permit. And you can only dig in certain areas. So please don’t call me to bail you out of the slammer, if you get arrested.
The next day, we bought a shovel and a bucket, obtained our permit and a map to the designated digging area. To get there, you had to drive about twenty miles off the beaten path, until the paved road ended. Then you had to drive a dozen more miles through mud and rock and . . . did I mention we were in the Camry? And then you had to get out and hike the last eight miles—one way—to a place where there was no cell phone reception, no ranger stations, and no food or gas.
Sounds entertaining, doesn’t it?
We followed the map until the road ended, and examined the terrain. It looked like Cami (our pet name for Camry) could go a little further. And a little further. For hours, we inched our way into the bowels of the Lincoln National Forest. At one point we got out, had a picnic lunch and examined the baby trees. But we weren’t sure if we were in the correct digging area.
Onward we pressed, like Captain America on a mission, to a place where there were no signs, no markers, no public port-a-potties. Finally, we decided this must be the place. Except, since there were no signs announcing, “Dig Here,” we weren’t sure.
Back into Bonnie and Clyde mode we went. We were pretty certain we were at the right place. And we’d left all possibility of Park Rangers behind over an hour ago. But what if we were wrong? What if the tree we dug was two feet over the line? Would helicopters with flashing lights swarm the mountain?
I could just hear it. “Drop the tree and put your hands in the air!”
It’d make a great movie, wouldn’t it? I’m thinking Reese Witherspoon could play my part. Possibly Jennifer Aniston.
After a lengthy treasure hunt for just the right tree, we found a worthy prospect, dug up the roots, and placed it in the bucket. Then we filled in the hole and set out on the long journey back. Hearts pounding. Adrenaline pumping like an old Hans and Franz video.
I clung to the digging permit like a security blanket, but nobody stopped us. Finally, a couple hours later, we were out of the woods. Literally.
And we had our tree.
I’m not sure of the moral to this story. But as I breathed in the scent of the fresh firs and pines and spruce trees, I remembered God’s promise of joy and peace in Isaiah 55. No matter how rocky the road may seem at times, no matter how many briars and thorns we have to travel through, we can be certain of this: God’s got beautiful evergreens waiting in our future.
“For you will go out in joy, and come back with peace: the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees in the fields will clap their hands. Instead of thornbushes, pine trees will grow, and instead of briers, myrtles will grow; and they will be a sign for the Lord, and an everlasting name that will not be cut off,” Isaiah 55:12-13.