Out in the dry, arid brush of northern Arizona, in the middle of a highway median, stands a tree. A 20-foot tall, bushy juniper. They’re common in these parts, but this tree is all alone where it stands. It looks out of place, like it’s just waiting to cross the street and run off to join its bretheren.
Every year, for nearly 20 years, at Christmastime, the tree transforms. Huge ornaments, a giant star—the tree becomes a symbol of the joy of the season. No one knows for sure who does it. One evening the decorations go up, and after Christmas they go down. Nobody has ever witnessed the decorator at work.
Of course, the dry brush of Northern Arizona isn’t known as a Christmas destination. What it is known for are wildfires. The tiniest spark can run amok here, wiping out everything in its path. As the flames lick the air, they send up embers that ride the wind until they stick against something flammable. A juniper tree is an easy target.
That’s what happened last week. A wildfire broke out 200 yards south of the “Mystery Tree.” Firefighters and police shut down the highway. Onlookers watched as the flames crept closer to their beloved tree, which had been decorated with yellow ribbons and American flags in honor of the troops abroad.
Then the flames stopped creeping.
As firefighters battled the blaze, the flames never leapt to the tree’s branches. By the time the fire had been extinguished, the brush in the area had been thoroughly scorched…except for the juniper, which remained completely untouched.
As the reporter for ABC 15 notes in his story, it could have been protected by nearby rocks, or by wind currents. It may seem that God has more important things to be worried about than some tree. But for the people living around there, the tree was a sign of hope. If its survival isn’t a small miracle, it sure is something to smile about in these difficult times.
It’s not the first time I’ve heard of flames backing off when it came to destroying something meaningful. It reminded me of a Mysterious Ways story we published in February 2006, by Keith Bryson of Sulligent, Alabama, about a room that wouldn’t burn.
Have you witnessed an unlikely or unexpected event that brought a smile to your face when you needed it? Leave a comment below or send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.