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Remembering the Oak

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I counted the cut end--103 rings. Humbling, awe-inspiring. The red oak was here in 1908, four years before my Dad was born.

And now, because there are cameras on the bus, and dogs are not allowed to board, Chet uses her lower trunk as a place to watch and make sure the Caped One gets off to school all right.

Yes, there he is, waving to his mom and doggeh.

See you tonight, little brother.

And in the churned-up soil beneath her rotten roots, I found a Liberty head dime, dated 1903, minted in Pittsburgh, with all its scarring worth only about $1.80, but like the red oak, priceless to me.

I'm left alone with the old coin, a tree's carcass and the memories.

This is how I will remember her, guardian of our driveway, stately landmark of our ridge road. I'll remember her shading a bluebird box, sheltering families of birds, lizards, insects, mammals, and four humans, often as not wearing a hawk in her hair.

I'll remember how she made an ordinary spot into a destination, a meeting place

How she made it all feel like home. One tree, deeply appreciated for the 19 years we had with her. Our time together was far too short, but with ones so dearly loved, it's always that way.


One year after my grandfather was born.

(Hmmm, doing the math ... were you a late in life surprise baby?)

Finding the dime is ... so characteristic of Miss Sara N. Dippity. I see she favors you with a visit from time to time also.

Can't you see that dime slipping out of some imp's jean pocket as he or she climbed or swung on that tree?

I'm overwhelmed with sadness for your loss. I wonder what photo is one of your all-time favorites? I can pick one.

I find the reverence of your posting on the life cycle of this grand old tree to be most affirming.
I feel thusly about many trees--not that all are as grand as the old oak--but I wince when I see people taking down trees. I too have taken down some trees where we live (the foolishness of planting bare root stock pines too close together).
May more people revere grand trees as you do.

This series of posts about your red oak have really moved me.....but not as much as the finding of the coin. How powerful to be connected not just to the tree but to the people who lived by it's side at it's beginning.

Makes me want to plant a coin with each tree I set in the earth. A token from one era to another. So thankful for your watchful eye.

Wayne, pa

Posted by Anonymous May 22, 2011 at 6:33 AM

How wonderful it is to get back from a run (with the whole family, no less!) and find you early birds here giving me an electronic hug.

Thank you. We're OK, and we'll be much better when we hire someone to roll her bottom half into the woods, and we cut up the top half.

Floridacracker, I always suspected as much, since the nurse asked DOD if he wanted to see his new granddaughter, but they said I was planned.

Being unsure, naturally I overcompensated. (Picture Bugs Bunny with top hat and tails, high-stepping across the stage...)

Mare, it's between the bottom two. I love them both. But I also love the bluebird on the mailbox.

Heather, what a grand idea. I'll try to find a 2011 coin when we finally find that perfect tree.

Might there perhaps be room on that roadside for a little oak sapling with a 2011 dime beneath its roots for a terrier and 2 fantastic kids to watch out for for the next few decades?

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Its been very enjoyable reading your "Odes to a the Ol' Oak Tree". It is amazing how much something like that can make an integral part of our lives.

My grandparents built a little cabin in the woods, on the edge of a lake in Maine, back in 1948. One town over from wwhere they lived, it was a place to spend the summer. They literally 'moved to camp' for the season. It was left to my sister and I when my mother passed away 2 years ago. My sons are the 5th generation to spend summers on the Pond (my great grandmother had a place there too.)

And there were two special trees. Two immensely tall, straight white pines, one planted and one wild. My grandmother, ignoring my grandfather's advice, planted one too close to the front porch. It shaded the porch for years, it's trunk touching the logs. A few years ago, my mother had to have it taken down, she was just afraid it would go down and take the camp with it.
The other was on the shoreline, so immensely big around and tall, it stood out from all the other trees when you were out on a boat on the lake. My grandfather and cousin saw it hit twice by lightning over the years. And yet it stood. Last summer, when we arrived after our long, hot journey, I unlocked the cabin door and did the usual look around, smelling the mousy piney, closed up smell that always heralds the start of camp. I rushed to the front porch and immediately noticed the view was different. Something was missing. "The TREE IS GONE!!!" I shouted. Our neighbor came over later and said that it had gone down in the winter, missing his camp by inches. Since he lives there, he cleaned it up and took the wood. I am grateful it chose to head in the only land-direction it could have without taking down a cabin (or killing someone), the loss of it hurts still.

Oh so sad. As I have been reading these posts, I am reliving all those times during all those years that the old oak brought a heavy sigh out of me each time I saw her and knew I was almost to my home-away-from-home. What a grand tree she was, and I know you well enough to know what she meant to you. Perhaps one day soon we could drive your way on a side-track from heading to our homestead just so I can say my goodbye?

The postings about the tree of course are moving enough, but finding that little coin, that token of man-made metal and presence, just adds a whole 'nuther dimension or connection to it!

I was reading it to Shel. I got to "hawk in her hair." Then she had to finish it herself.

I suspect someone didn't get lunch one day because they lost their dime. I hope the lunch lady was kind enough to give credit. Beautiful tribute to a dear friend.

This post makes my heart ache, for a lot of reasons, for your loss, and mine. My beautiful venerable green ash has sprouted several hens of the woods this spring; now that I know what it means, I feel as if I've been invited to a protracted wake, when I didn't even know anyone was sick.

My bluebirds perch in it as they spell each other feeding the babies. A great crested flycatcher gave me the fisheye from a lower branch just the other day, crest raised, in between "wheep"s. A rose-breasted grosbeak flycatched from that tree a few years ago, something I'd never known they did till then. And I sat, leaning against it, with my wonderful old Wiggy in my lap, an hour before I said goodbye to her for the last time. She'd climbed that tree back in her youth; luckily, she was on a leash, and a few good yanks brought her back to earth.

That's where your post has left me, lying on my back beneath it in my mind, gazing up into its leaves, making deals with the universe that they'll be there for umpteen springs to come. And sorry that your oak isn't there to stand sentinel by the road anymore, yet grateful that it was there for you and your family, and that you've paid it such gorgeous tribute. I think it knows, and is glad to have been loved, and remembered.

A fitting tribute to a good friend.

How so very sad!

You have honored your old oak well!

Lovely post. Moving words. I'm so glad I stumbled across your blog today. Trees do have a place in our lives, don't they? Especially when they have been climbed, rested under, and loved.

That dime would hold a place in my heart. Even at the price of silver these days.

Posted by Anonymous May 24, 2011 at 9:02 PM

Beautiful, beautiful tree, even in its felled state. When we had to take down some trees that were dead and falling on our house I felt an almost physical sensation when they cracked and fell, as if my own bones were breaking. Such was my affinity to them.

Don't know if you'll read this after so long, but a neighbor just cut down one of the largest trees in our neighborhood today for no reason, that I can tell, other than it was in his yard and he had the "right." It was a tree at least as old as yours and it's absence will change the light and feel here forever. I am overwhelmed with grief for this tree, so came back to read again about your loss and remember that there are people who care about trees and nature. I'm sorry for your loss and I'm sorry for mine ...

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