A Tribute to a 200-Year-Old Tree
I was away the other day when my neighbor had a tree cut down.
I knew the tree and never imagined the woods without it. It was a healthy, solidly anchored 200-year-old silver maple. This tree nurtured generations of wildlife long before so many people lived here. The canopy of this tree fed and sheltered many generations of creatures.
I have not asked my neighbor why he wanted to cut down this tree. I have not asked the community administration why they approved the cut. I suppose the homeowner feared the tree was a threat, and, perceiving this, his first inclination was to cut it down. Did the community association assess the tree before approving its destruction?
I was dismayed when I discovered the tree, once magnificent and alive, lying dead and dismembered with its pieces strewn haphazardly into the surrounding woodlands. I said a prayer for the tree, thanking it for its life and its contribution to the woodlands.
After this prayer I saw promise. This tree can be a lesson. The large circular pieces, placed using Zen, and their shape, size and weight, became a sculpture, a tribute to the tree. Also, the substance of the tree will remain and continue to nourish the woods.
The branches and leaves, when carefully cut, sized and placed, will serve the same purpose as they decompose. While they break down, they will form plant beds and perform erosion control on the down slope of the wooded hillside.
The new cleared area that was shaded by the crown of the tree is now in sunlight. Mother Nature will inhabit this space with introductory, intermediate and replacement plants and trees over the next century or two. Perhaps one of those saplings, in the year 2217, will become a two-hundred-year old tree.
–Bill Mitchell: Master Watershed Steward of Chesapeake Bay and the South River