Wisdom is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed. Prov. 3:18
They came and cut you down today. City leaders thought if they planted one of your own acorn seeds in the same spot, the townspeople would feel better about the whole thing.
They did not.
Men, women, and children lined the streets that circled the city park, watching in silence the arborists saw you up in pieces, limb by limb, then carry you away in a truck.
You were born over one hundred and fifty years ago—the towns first citizen. In your prime, you stood as a sentinel over the growing town, looking down upon us from your one-hundred-foot perch with maternal pity and compassion–spreading your protective arms fifty feet in every direction over the parks green grass .
With every changing season, you clothed and unclothed yourself. Your branches would bud in spring, bringing forth large angular leaves in summer— first in soft green. But while we slept, they turned flaming yellow, gold, and red—then blew off into the air with the stiff autumn breeze leaving your bare skeleton exposed winter long. Children danced with glee under your outstretched arms, kicking into the air your discarded garments.
What stories you must hold underneath the ground and within your roots–stories you will never tell—a silent but truthful witness to the ebb and flow of life in this tiny plot of earth. How many kids played hide-and-seek under your branches? You always knew, but never gave them up.
You listened carefully year after year as the young newspaper boys called out the worlds headlines. “U.S.A.buys Alaska.” “Communism Covers Asia“.
We have had twenty-seven presidents, yet not much has changed. We have suffered through seven terrible wars. You know the boys in this town who did not make it back.
You were there at the beginnings of two of the greatest social movements in modern history—the civil rights movement, and the birth of alcoholics anonymous.
You heard we put a man on the moon, and in those same years assassinated three national heroes.
Yet, what you yourself witnessed, and what I suppose mattered most to you, is what went on in this little town you were planted–in your own place on this earth.
How pleased you must have been when each spring–as your tender green leaves provide their first shade of the year–new parents strolled out their babies born in the dark winter for you to meet for the first time .
In late spring, high school and community college students sprawled out under you in the grass, with their books open but rarely looked at, as they dreamt of what lay ahead.
Summertime brings out young families and picnics on the grass. Moms and Dads play with the kids, but silently worry about what life their children will have, where they will end up, and what will the world look like to them. The only thing that seems to stay in place is you.
Sometimes, when my Dad and I would walk the park, we would see old men lying down under you as if dead, with tall brown bottles laying empty and on their sides. When I asked “What’s wrong with these men?” , he would say “they are alcoholics”. Yet, your shade protected them just as well as the rest of us.
Old men and women would walk up to you, and with tenderness place their hands on your trunk, tracing carefully what is left of the markings they made in the moonlight many years ago— “Bob loves Susan”.
You tenderly watched a lonely, solitary woman sit on a park bench, looking up at you—as if to ask if you remember her partner, and how they used to sit side by side on this same bench. He has been dead now for over twenty years. I believe you knew him well, just as you know all of us.
You have watched, and listened, and born witness to these scenes and so many more ,over and over and over again, as one generation made way for the next.
We, who must stay behind, implore you to speak. What does all this mean? Everything seems so tentative and precarious. You were the one constant in our lives.
What lessons do you have for us? Are we growing, or are we declining? Is there still hope for us? Please, don’t be silent. We need to know. Tell us what we must do. Do we keep repeating this cycle of lost and found? Or is there a turn we must take?
Don’t leave us alone to ourselves.