This week, a beloved tree will come down. A majestic copper beech on the main hill at my alma mater has died, they believe due to a lightning strike. I’m not much of one for alumni activity, but I did consider driving into Boston for the tree’s memorial service last week. Alas, my teaching schedule prevented the trip. That tree was a thing of beauty. A place of shade and solace. It exuded wisdom. Calm.
I’ve always found comfort in trees. The best was a mid-sized red maple in my childhood front yard. One of the limbs was low enough to grasp, then – walking my legs up the trunk – I could hook one knee over and haul myself up. The main fork of branches was a perfect seat, especially once I hauled up a piece of plywood as a back support. It wedged perfectly. There was room for one additional person perched on the branch above, but mostly, it was my space. I’d load a pillow, snacks, and books into a basket tied to a string, climb up then hoist my supplies to spend many a summer’s day. I could see the neighborhood activity, but unless you were standing directly beneath the tree, you couldn’t see me. It was perfect.
We moved the summer I turned twelve, a major milestone in many, many ways. Looking back, I wonder how it might have been different if our new house had an equally welcoming tree.
Forty odd years later, our current home came with almost no trees. Trees border the property, but the man we bought our house from loved his lawn. Since moving in 2 years ago, we’ve planted 7 trees, with more to come. Though sadly, none will reach climbable size during my kiddo’s childhood. His swing set/clubhouse will have to suffice for home. We need to find him climbing trees elsewhere.
During the many walks of toddler days in Boston, we’d often play in the hiding trees (aka willows) along the banks of the Charles River. During preschool, he created a photography project, taking a picture each day of a sugar maple near our home, documenting green to gold to bare. And he mastered climbing the low branches near the preschool parking lot before liability-minded administrators posted signs prohibiting climbing.
We talk of future lifetimes together. I hope to be a tree. He has promised to be a bird – to nest in my branches and bring me stories of the world all around.