I often write about my affinity for birds, dogs, and just about any form of life surrounding we human beings. Nature is one of God’s greatest gifts to us.
Such a gift to me are trees. I believe in a past column I wrote about my efforts to prevent an Japanese Maple tree just yards from my deck that was pummeled by a winter storm with very strong southeast winds. During the nasty snow-ladened tempest the tree began to list to the west. I couldn’t bear to watch the tree tumble, especially since we lost a large pine tree during a blizzard in that very spot years earlier.
I went out side and wedged a fairly large two-by-four, propping the tree, giving it half a chance against the relentless onslaught.
It did survive and after some phone calls, landscapers came and secured my pal and it’s been growing and flourishing since.
I once had my ancestry traced on one of those online sites after sending a DNA sample. It turns out that I’m 90 percent French, about five percent Welsh and two percent Indigenous North American. So according to that, I do have First Nation or Native American blood. I think there’s where my love for nature originates.
When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I would climb the low branches of the trees in my pépère’s yard on Smithies Street in Fall River.
As I got older, I climbed higher and felt right at home with amongst the limbs, twigs and leaves.
I grew up on Whipple Street and across the street from my home lived my other pépère and mémère, and they had an enormous Sugar Maple tree on their property. It gave shade to a half dozen properties.
That tree was witness to me and my seemingly hundreds of cousins as we played beneath it’s expansive spread. In the fall, when the good old Maple shed it’s leaves we would make piles and play for hours.
That is the infamous tree from which I fell as an 11-year-old and shattered my left arm. One would think at that moment, my love for the big old Maple would have broken along with my radius and ulna.
I was put in a burdensome cast of plaster of Paris from my fingers to my bicep. It weighed more than the rest of my body combined. It was hot, itchy and my companion for a whole summer — meaning I couldn’t go swimming or play anything physical.
So what did I do all summer? I spent my time reading and playing board games under the outstretched arms of my good old Maple tree. We were still best friends.
As I grew older, I saw my old friend less and less and then learned it had to be cut down (not exactly sure why, though). It struck a nerve to know its more than 100 years of existence was coming to an end.
A few weekends back, Denise and I decided to go for a ride to break the monotony of cabin fever. I drove down my old street and peered into the yard that was once home to my grandparents, aunts, cousins and the site of countless hours of fun.
I knew the good old Maple was gone, but as I gazed where the majestic tree had spent more than a century, it saddened me to see not a trace of my old friend. The whole landscape was different. The tree was a major part of my life; and like losing my grandparents, mom and dad and Igor, it left a nagging void.
I recently finished a book, “The Bear is my Father,” by Marcellus Bear Heart Williams, a “multli-tribal Muscogee Creek medicine man,” a man who knew nature in a way many of us never will and who was also a devout Baptist.
In his book he wrote, “When the wind blows through a tree, the leaves are singing praise to the Creator.” When he was young, one of his elders and teachers told him, “If that tree could talk it could teach us a lot of things.”
If my good old Maple tree could have spoken, it would have told stories of love, family, fun, heartbreak and pain. It would have also shared how blessed it was to be able to provide shade during the hot summer days, and colorful displays during the fall. It would have said how, while dormant during the winter, it proudly displayed signs of hope and new beginnings when its first buds appeared in spring.
My good old Maple grew from a simple seed into a glorious gift from the “Great Spirit.” I would love to have watched it grow from a sapling to a tree with a trunk three or four feet in diameter.
Bear Heart continued, “I learned that the tree is a lot like us. It has long roots with which it gets nourishment from our Mother Earth. It nurses from our Mother, who sustains the life of the tree. Its life-sustaining sap is like the blood going up and down in our bodies.”
I believe that. My good old Maple may be gone, but I have memories of it and it actually appears in home movies I have that Larry took over the years. And I have another tree that has befriended me and of which I nurture, so that its leaves may sing praise to the Creator.