The secret to happiness is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit. -Nelson Henderson
Today, a young man came to cut down my Ash tree. One thing you should know about me, I love trees and never want to cut any down. I even try to talk my neighbors out of cutting theirs down. I coerced my husband into planting many trees over the years, but the Ash tree was special. We moved to Muncy, Pennsylvania in 1970 and in the spring of that year, we settled in our home on Sprout Road. One of the trees that I pleaded with the Contractor to keep was in terrible shape and had to be cut down. Mr John Bruch stopped by the day we were cutting it down and told my husband there was a tree law in our borough which said, if you cut a tree down, you would have to replace it with another. My husband thought I had probably paid him to deliver that news. However, the next afternoon, Mr Bruch arrived with a very small Ash tree in his truck. My husband had no choice but to plant it. It was a scrawny looking little tree, but somehow I knew it would grow into a wonderful beautiful shade tree, and it did.
Over the years, we have taken down and replanted many trees in our yard. Since our soil is manly made up of shale, nothing wants to grow here. I can’t remember how many dogwood trees or flowering Japanese Maple trees that we tried to make grow here to no avail. The Maple trees seem to love our soil, for that I am thankful.
A huge Maple tree sat at the end of our patio when we moved in. Our boys loved this tree. They built a tree house in it (of some sorts, but that is what they called it. Actually it was a platform with a few rails around it and a rope ladder. I prayed overtime that it would not fall and take the kids with it. My husband kept saying it was sturdy as can be, but I was not a believer.), They hung a tire on a limb to swing on and a rope to climb up hand over hand. All of these things took place over the course of many years. My husband would later put up a swing close to the ground for our oldest granddaughter and she dearly loved it. One day he was out in the yard, and put all of his weight on the swing as he occasionally did to test the safety of the swing and the branch that held it, toppled to the ground taking him with it. We were thankful that our little granddaughter hadn’t been in her swing at the time. So it was time for the old Maple to say good-bye to our back yard. It was with great sadness and lots of memories that we said so long to her. We watched as she was turned into fire wood.
Now, let’s get back to the Ash tree. My youngest son, John, was here for Thanksgiving and I proceeded to tell him that the Ash tree had done her due diligence and would be saying so long to our yard. He was a little sad about the whole procedure. He told me that when his Dad was teaching him how to catch a ball, the Ash tree would always stop the balls that he missed. It had been like an old friend to him. I could see in my mind the picture that he painted. His Dad showed great patience as he was teaching a child who had no depth perception how to catch a ball. Day after day they would practice. John would later become a catcher for his Little League Baseball team and was pretty good at it. He figured out where the ball had to be for him to catch it through his Dad’s fortitude and the help of a little Ash tree. I saw him go out and take one last look at his tree before he headed back home for Virginia. He told his boys about the tree and I don’t think they were impressed at all, but I was. The Ash tree had created memories that will remain in his mind forever. One year, we even had a family picture taken under that tree.
In later years, my English Bulldog, Winston, claimed that tree as his own. He would sit under it or take a snooze under it when the days were cool. Sometimes he would pee on it too, just to mark it for his use only and would growl at any neighborhood dogs who tried to make a stop there. The Ash leaves would provide lots of shade for him. I am sure he will miss it too. It was his tree.
Like everything with time becomes old and decrepit. We nurture it and try to save what is left of it, but it isn’t possible. For everything there is a time and a season, a time to live and a time to die. It is what we do with that time that is important. Like the Ash tree, we stand tall and proud until disease overcomes us and our limbs become bare and our bodies begin to fail us. We have used the shade to cover those that we love. We have stopped balls to help those who depend on us. We have given as much love as possible to create lasting memories. We let our children climb that rope hand over hand when they begin to reach adulthood. When we, like the Ash tree that has fallen look back at all the times that we made such precious memories with our love ones, we sometimes wonder where the time went. It seems like yesterday and yet, it was years ago. In my mind, I feel just like I did when I was a young bride beginning my adult life and then I look at my hands and realize that it was many years ago. I look in the mirror and see my Momma’s face and wonder how I got to be as old as she was. I get a faint picture in my brain of years gone by when I could run in the rain and ride a bike or teach my little children how to swim or read or be independent adults. I look at what wonderful responsible people they have become, but more than that, they are happy, spiritual adults. I see them giving their children the same lessons that we taught them and I smile as life goes full circle. I will miss our Ash tree but if I look hard enough, I can see that young boy crouched with his mitt in his hand and his Dad patiently throwing a baseball to him over and over again.