I Went to Meet a Tree

I learn from the Italian Mama about an oak tree in our neighborhood that’s over 200 years old.  It’s a ten minute stroll from my house, and I’ve never seen it.  This is why every neighborhood needs an Italian Mama who knows the secrets.  She’s the one who told me where to find the hidden vernal pond.  She’s the one who knows this land.

I’m thinking about the oak tree all morning.  I have to see it; I have to touch it; I have to thank it for being here all this time, witnessing lives lived right here.  My friend and I see the oak tree’s arms raised above the houses, and she takes off running.  “There it is!  It’s right here!” she cheers and points.  I run behind her, full of joy and awe. (Every neighborhood also needs the kind of friend who not only agrees to walk with you to meet a tree, but who also runs with joy at the sight of it.) 

We’re going to meet a tree! 

With those wide branches, it feels like the arms of God bestowing a blessing upon my head. 

Oak Tree over 200 years old

You have to dance around a bit when you stand next to something this big. You have to step way back to capture the whole thing.

But you also have to lean in close and run your fingers along the veins and wrinkles of its skin. 

I love ancient things.  I love the physical evidence that time passes and that new generations come and old ones die.  In 200 years, another woman and her friend will run and dance around this old oak tree.  I’m aware, suddenly, of my own mortality.  But I’m equally aware of one thing:

I’m here right now.

Psalm 90 requests, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  As I touch the old oak, I know my days here are numbered.  The tree makes me step back

I number the days, anticipating and recording the wonder of God, as sturdy and expansive as the oldest oak in our town. I’m full of joy as I stand with my friend, and I can’t wait to tell the Italian Mama what it felt like to see the tree.

Once again, I learn that living with flair has nothing to do with fame, prestige, or wealth.  It has everything to do with beauty in community. 

Do you know the oldest thing in your town?  When you visit it, do you become aware of your own mortality?

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0 Responses

  1. Heather, have you been to the Alan Seeger Natural Area?  http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/oldgrowth/alanseeger.aspx
    You'll want to wait until warmer weather, but you'll find the oldest trees in the state there!

  2. Ah, Heather, you remind me to appreciate the many, many live oaks in my area. 100 years old is common. 200 isn't that uncommon. The one in my front yard is at least 50. And I don't even notice.

  3. Oh dear!  I thought it was a public, historic sort of site!  Was I actually dancing and jumping about uninvited on her property?!!!  I'm SO SORRY!!  Tell Peg I am sorry (but I also loved her tree!)

  4. When I pass this majestic old lady, I feel a sense of reverence, as if I'm in the presence of something so much wiser full of sage wisdom.  I try to image what the landscape was like whe this tree was a sapling, and how much change this tree has witnessed.  It gives me a new appreciation for my wrinkles; like the old oak, I have earned these wrinkles!