[Oops! Thought I had published this several weeks ago. However, discovered this morning that it was still a draft. I do not know how to set a publish date (or if it is even possible) so here it is, posted in December rather than on November 12.]
A towering oak, close to 100 years old by our count of its rings, was cut down last Friday to begin the process of clearing the land for the building of a house. This neighborhood was first begun in the late nineteen-teens; our house was built in 1925 and we have had the honor of living in this house for the past 29 years. During all that time the oak tree stood across the street, part of an extra-wide lot that actually consisted of three lots, with a stately house and its side deck taking up a little over one lot and the remainder of the property landscaped with the trees untouched.
In the wider photo below, the oak is the tree on the right.
The owners, their daughters grown and no longer living at home, recently sold the house to a family with children, and the oak tree's land was sold to a developer. And so the tree came down.
I had no idea it would touch me as much as it did. While the tree was still standing, Fred and I wrapped our arms around it and gave it a big hug. And last Sunday I alighted onto the oak's stump and shared with its spirit a poem by Mary Oliver followed by an homage I wrote. Then I scooped up some of the saw dust and released it to the air, as if it was fairy dust blessing the ground. Had I done my research sooner, I would have learned that Native Americans bless their trees before they are cut down.
When I Am Among the Trees by Mary Oliver
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oak and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."
The dinosaur (well, it does bear some resemblance!) was not the tree chopper, but it has been parked on the property since the weekend, portending what comes next. And the small piece of wood is a bit of the oak tree, sitting in a new harbor on a small stone wall by the oft-used side entry to our home, a reminder of the mighty oak.