Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tears for my Tree

Majestic is the word that comes to mind.

Standing tall for over 70 years~maybe more. The huge Silver Maple will always be with me. I woke up to it's shimmery silver tinted leaves in the early morning. Squirrels running from branch to branch, birds perched on it's graceful limbs. In winter the snow gathered in the Y of the biggest branches, my first indication of a snowy wintry day. My tree stood stately and majestic, casting a cool and protective shadow over my house.

In spring, the tree would come to life in what seemed like a few days, with new shoots, buds and leaves unfurling. I'd see my first Robin on a branch and the smaller birds would make a nest among the branches.
In summer our tree was lush with leaves and activities. In early June almost every year a family of raccoons would make it home in the hollow between two large limbs. As I napped with my grand kids in the early afternoons, we would fall asleep with our eyes turned towards the window hoping to see the baby raccoons venture out among the branches. They usually came out to play when the sun was setting and the sky became luminous with the light of dusk.

As autumn approached the leaves would start to turn yellow and the radiance of light would turn the tree to a golden shimmering Century standing guard before they started to float to the ground below and create a carpet. Thousand of leaves came from that tree. Piles and piles to run through, gather and celebrate fall.
Our tree did not lose it's majesty in winter. It stood tall and bare but very stately, guarding our house, shading from the sun, protecting it from harsh weather, swaying in a storm, it's branches rustling in the winds.

Everyday I would look out my bedroom window~ it was the first thing to see as I opened my eyes to the morning light. It filled the window with it's magnificence.
I loved this tree, it was massive with roots above the surface and a trunk so big around, 3 adults holding hands could not encircle it's base.
It stood to the left of my house, shading the lawn and providing relief from the sun in the sweltering days of summer.

Over the years the big tree was trimmed and lightened. At a glance you could see it was aging ... time was taking it's toll, the bark was peeling, dead branches would come down during summer storms. Part of the tree had no growth, it was in the twilight of it's life.

As each storm came barreling through over the seasons I would run to the front yard to look at the tree, gaze up to the branches praying none would fall. I would check the base of the tree, the roots would sit on the surface of my lawn and I would think to myself, someday soon this tree will not have the strength to remain standing.

It was a fear justified because of the age of the tree and also it's size. How would it fall? should I cut it down? that was something I had been putting off.. it was impossible for me to call someone to take the tree down, my tree~ I loved that tree too much... just give me one more season ~I couldn't imagine my tree not being there.  So I decorated it's base with pots of flowers and the most beautiful bird house, a wine box with a copper roof that Clint made for me, and I prayed for each storm to treat my tree gently.
But there is time for everything and much of it out of our control.

We left for our time away in Anguilla on a Saturday early morning. I woke up extra early to water my flowers and plants before going to the airport. As I stood outside with the hose in my hand, I turned to look up at my tree. I gazed upward through the branches, pass the squirrels and the bird house, through the abundant branches and leaves, I looked at the tree a long time thinking to myself it seemed to be leaning to one side, but it is a huge tree and maybe I was imagining it.

On a plane, on a beach miles and miles away.
The call came the very next day around 6 pm on a Sunday night .
"Mom, are you sitting down?" my daughter asked "no one is hurt but please sit down" and she told me. My tree fell down.
No one was hurt and nothing was damaged ~ that alone was a miracle. The street that I live on is an active one. Cars drive up and down constantly, people walk their dogs, stop and chat, runners jog by, walkers pass the house in a leisurely manner, but as the tree fell, quietly ... no one heard a sound...majestically ... it hurt no one, not a thing, but just laid itself down across my lawn and my neighbors driveway. Her car was not it the usual spot. The tree fell on a diagonal not touching the fire hydrant or the wires or poles that sit across from it.
Not hurting or harming anything but blocking the whole street. Commanding the respect and attention it deserved!
My tree laid down and I wasn't even there to see it, to whisper goodbye and thank you for 40 years of shelter and enjoyment and companionship. For the changing spectacle of season and the wildlife it brought to my doorstep, for guarding my home, my children and lending elegance to my home.
I loved my tree, the memories will now sustain me but I will never forget my tree.
A big gaping hole where it once stood proud and oh so tall.

Cars stopped, people gathered, neighbors took pictures, my tree fell and now the sun is shining brightly against my bedroom window, blazing the bricks a bright red. My home feels bare, my house unsheltered, the landscape is different. I will miss my Silver Maple and I give thanks for the many years it stood beside me, protected and shaded me.

It brought me such joy! I will miss it terribly!


  1. strange enough, I will miss that tree too!

  2. I didn't even know the tree and I'm ready to cry.
    Beautiful homage to Your Tree.

  3. Susan: I remembered this poem from grade school days!

    I THINK that I shall never see
    A poem lovely as a tree.

    A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
    Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;

    A tree that looks at God all day, 5
    And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

    A tree that may in summer wear
    A nest of robins in her hair;

    Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
    Who intimately lives with rain.

    Poems are made by fools like me,
    But only God can make a tree.

    Mr.Kilmer would be in awe of your essay! Beautiful!!

  4. It's very sad to see something that brings so much joy to people (and wildlife) topple....

    I don't believe I ever got a really good look at it because it was always nighttime when we arrived for cooking classes. I think I missed out...

    Lots of prayers Susan, every single day.....

  5. Susan,

    That was just so beautiful. For so many years I have looked up the street to see that beautiful tree framing your home. I think the tree was protecting you by going quietly while you were gone so you didn't have to witness it.

  6. We had a sixty year old Norway Maple that three adults could not touch hands either. My husband Clay climbed out his bedroom window as a boy onto the sturdy leaders of that tree. We did everything we could to extend her life. I can still remember my tiny daugter (now 22) hugging and crying as she wrapped her little arms around that tree when she heard the news it was coming down. "I love this tree Mommy"
    Nearly 17 years later, the earth still sinks as the massive root system still decays... We planted a beautiful "weeping" cherry in memory of our Majestic Norway...
    Kathy Jordan