The Oak Tree

12 Jun

All of it’s branches reach out.  Stretching skyward, slender or stout, shortened, truncated by man, or extending far from the center, those branches leafed out in June, shade the ground. Within green shaded air, lightly sighing leaf sounds compete with the twitter of  birds who fight for space on the bird feeders placed under the canopy. That tree has anchored the place since 200 years before the birth of my mother. Now, cracks are showing in the bark. New ones, that were not there even a couple of weeks ago. The end is near. The giant oak is completely hollow, though huge and gnarly, it is gently dying. The root structure is gone to the east and south east. Will it last another 3 weeks? NOT sure.

What a legacy. Power in a tree. Magnificent, majestic, mighty this tree calls alliteration to mind, even though trite, the fit is there. There are few like it. And none that grace the yard of a private home in the middle of the capital of the United States of America. This huge, stolid trunk is weakening from the inside. Though we who love it want to believe it will outlive us, we can see that it is almost gone into legend. Though it still stands, reaching to the sky and thick with leaves, the underpinnings of the tree are gone. Where once roots burrowed under the ground and interfered with growing grass, the carpet is thick and green, with fast growing grass.

Overlooking my childhood that Oak Tree stood sentinel. Glancing at it sideways, it was just “there”. Shading our front yard in hot Washington DC summers, we were grateful for the coolness beneath those spreading arms.  Yet, unconsciously the presence as a constant gave stability to my growing years until we left to live in Europe.  Then I missed it.  Then we had a smooth grass circle in front of the Embassy and it seemed naked. I longed for the thick trunk and overreaching green leafed canopy, the acorns in the fall, the bare branches silhouetted  against the winter sky, the spring tassels that preceded the early leafing out.

I loved that tree. We all loved it and we all still do. It frightens us to imagine the space without it. How strange that would/ will be. How unsettling and unusually bright. The entire house would change for the worse, or at least for a very different aspect. But life goes on.  The land will still be there when the tree is gone. Someone will tear down the house once called “Underoak” and build something made of steel and glass. An office building? An embassy? An addition to the American University campus? Will I live to see this change?

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