Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ode to an Oak

The oak tree had been there as long as anyone could remember, standing out in the front yard at the corner of Substation and Powerline Roads. Coming south on Powerline around the S-curves you first saw the gnarly branches of the oak reaching every which way, then the lights of the house filtered through the branches, and then you parked the van underneath, and then you were home.

The tree was my favorite because it had character born of old age and long faithfulness and no longer caring if anyone thought it was pretty. The branches were unbalanced heavily toward the south, and an occasional limb crashed in a storm. But even through the wild storm of 2002, when the power was out and I watched, certain that its end was near, the tree stayed strong and solid.

In summer, the oak tree was full and green, and every year the first signal that fall was near was when we backed the van out and suddenly heard the rattle of acorns rolling along the roof of the van.This weekend we're having our annual "special meetings" at church. I stayed home last night while the others went to the dinner at church, then I finished some work here in preparation for overnight guests, dashed out the back door, and zipped off to church thinking everything was as it ought to be.
Jenny and I headed home right after the service, around 8:00. Coming south on Powerline, I rounded the curves and, as always, unconsciously looked for the lights of home scattered through the crooked branches of the oak tree. And suddenly I sensed that something was very wrong.

I turned in the driveway and gasped. The tree was down, lying there like someone had come along and given it a gentle shove and laid it over.

The top branches reached halfway up the sidewalk, and huge limbs surrounded the van, which looked surprisingly undamaged.

It all had that awful, disorienting look of big strong things lying helpless and broken, and of an empty space in the air that should have been filled with tree, and of branches sticking where no branches belonged.
And it is all very sad. I heard someone in the house [a teenage male] fussing today that Some People are just so Sad about that tree and we'll have to have a ceremony and bury it or something.

Well. I'm going to be as sad as I want. It meant a lot to me, and it's gone, and there's a big empty space where it ought to be.


  1. It was a living thing, and now it's dead, and it's OK for you to grieve and mourn its loss!

  2. I agree! Trees aren't people, but they're a personality. Loved all your pics of it. It obviously was a landmark.

  3. It would be wonderful if someone could make something lovely for your home from the gorgeous oak - that way it would continue to be part of your daily life.

  4. What happened to it? Wind? Storm? Rot? Why'd it fall over? Such a tragedy.

  5. It was trying to crawl in the van and run away to seek it's fortune?

  6. Trees are beautiful,and to think some have been around for generations.I guess teen-agers just aren't sentimental!I agree with Judi,something made from the tree would be nice!

  7. Plant another tree, too. Nothing says more about your love of trees than to plant one or two more to grow for the generations to come.

  8. I share your sentiments exactly.
    I love trees, but not a tree hugger. My Dad was still planting trees in his seventies.
    In South Carolina we love the willow oaks, not many leaves to rake in fall, they are small and blow away.

  9. Sorry about losing a dear friend. Reminds me of a time about 10 years ago, when I lay down to rest after a shopping trip. I looked out the window, and realized I hadn't put the van away after unloading my groceries. Knowing my hubby liked for me to put it away, I got back up and parked it in the garage. I lay back down, looked out the window, and WHOOSH!! a big branch dropped out of the tree out front, precisely onto the spot where the van was before I moved it! At a time like that, you can only say, "Thank You, Lord!" I realized immediately that it was Him who reminded me that the van was still out, and prompted me to be obedient, and that obedience has its rewards!
    Let us know how your van made out under there. It looks unscathed from my vantage point out here in Virginia! :) -PC in VA

  10. Plant a new tree (or several) and have this one sawn into lumber; and make some nice furniture out of it. Quality furniture should last as long as it takes to grow another tree.

  11. PC--what a story!
    And Josh, that's what we plan to do.

  12. A fallen tree is sad because it takes may years to grow. I agree, have something made from it for a memory. I always was sorry that I didn't do it from our willow tree. But then I found some other willow and had a friend make bowls for me. By the way, this friend is Lora Zehr's Uncle Clair....and Lora is my husband's neice.... :)