The old maple tree is probably a couple of hundred years old and stands at least 100 feet tall, maybe more. It has been a constant in my life, part of my earliest memories as well as my most recent, like a thread that weaves all the pieces together, binding them into a single cloth of life. This is the cloth I wear as I face the world head-on and as shelter from the occasionally harsh realities that life presents. It is my persona, my mask, my protection, and it is at once who I was and the person I have become.
My tree has roots in the land that precede those of my family and was already fully grown and mature when my grandfather bought the acreage in 1929, when the road was a mere cow path and the only neighbors were the dairy farmers who’s property abuts ours, or more accurately, mine as it’s current steward.
It is located in the woods between my parents home and that of my grandparents and as a very young child, it was a landmark for me as I raced between the two places I thought of as home, places to eat and sleep and find love and comfort when needed. It was the half way mark on the map of my existence.
There was comfort in the maple as well, a familiar friend in who’s great green foliage I found a hiding place, a vantage point from which I could observe my world, unseen by anyone. Countless tears have fallen on the leaves of that old tree and she has kept just as many secret thoughts that have been whispered into her abundance. As the years went by, I climbed higher and higher, seeing farther and farther, and it became a place for dreaming. When we move into adulthood, we trade the freedom of dreams for carefully thought out plans, more practical maybe, but nowhere near as exciting and boundless.
The old tree is dying now and this makes me incredibly sad. Before long it will become just another one of the memories I am know for keeping. Large branches have been falling for years and this morning I found that the uncharacteristically early October Nor’easter that passed through last night had claimed a large portion of the main trunk. I know that soon, the roots will lose their grip on the earth and I will hear the great crashing sound of another part of my past falling out of my life. The day will come when my fallen friend will rot and return to nourish the soil in which it has grown for these past centuries and when I pass from this life, there will be no one to remember when she stood in beauty, and strength as she was when she was one of the beacons I claimed as my own so many years ago.