Winters on the prairie were brutal for the early pioneers. During snowstorms a person could get lost just walking from the house to the barn and back again. In order to protect themselves homesteaders would plant trees and shrubs of various types around the buildings and as they grew they would form natural wind breaks. These shelter belts are still very common in rural areas in the U.S. and Canada. Driving through North Dakota we saw quite a few of these belts surrounding homes and farm buildings. Some were so thick that you couldn’t even see the house and buildings there were protecting and others were obviously still in their inceptions or had been reduced by time and weather.
I got to thinking that these shelter belts are not really unlike what we do in our own lives to shield ourselves from hurts and disasters. Instead of trees though we use the people around us. Some of these people chance placed in our lives through the accident known as birth but many others are chosen. Through deliberate acquisition and lucky timing we place these people around ourselves in the hopes that when the brutal emotional times come we will be protected and supported.
But, when death claims one of the members of our shelter belt, we are less able to bear the brunt of the storm that follows. We are like the homesteaders of bygone times, stringing up rope from building to building and pulling ourselves through the emotional blizzards. A lost member of the belt cannot really be replaced. It takes time to patch the whole in our shelter system and even when we find someone new to stand in the place of the fallen, they will not be the same. Just like a newly planted tree takes time to grow and fill out, a new person in our circle will need time as well, but they will take on a different shape just as a new tree would.