The following and all of the other episodes to come are snapshots of what goes on in my head, now and in the past. There are times none of this will make sense. There will be times when I might get lucky, and the blog I post will be well constructed and will flow like a mountain stream to an awaiting lake below. Other times it will seem like the ramblings of a madman, and you’ll ask yourself, “What the……?”
You should probably get used to the latter.
EPISODE TWO HUNDRED EIGHT: BEFORE US – AFTER US
If you’re not getting older, you’re dead.
Just a few days ago, as of this writing (if I ever write an autobiography, As of This Writing will be the title), my wife and I went to go see a tree.
Where I live in middle Tennessee, it’s kind of famous. It’s called The Birthing Tree. It sits just off Sparta Street in McMinnville. I imagine that at one time, it was all by itself near a dirt path. But, instead, it sits surrounded by pavement, a busy road, two parking lots, and a medical business.
But there it sits in all of its glory. And it’s huge.
It’s a large oak tree that is approximately 250 years old. So, when its leaves just started to poke out of the ground, the year was 1771. The tree was used as a landmark for pioneers and travelers and as a waiting place for others to catch up to them. And because some waited so long, some women gave birth under its large limbs.
When we arrived at the tree, only then did I realize that I had passed this tree many times. When I was a kid, my family would travel to Crossville to see my dad’s relatives. We never took the interstate but this back way through Woodbury, McMinnville, Sparta, and on to Crossville.
And as far as I could remember, I wasn’t aware of this great big tree when we passed it. I probably had my head deep inside a book, a comic book, or an issue of Mad Magazine. Or I was listening to my Sony Walkman with my eyes closed. Outside the vehicle, this tree passed by, and I didn’t see it.
But this day, I saw it, in all of its glory.
One word: HUGE!!!
We got out and took it all in. It could be considered a short tree, approximately 81 feet. But’s wide with massive branches that drape the top of the ground. There are metal cables that are attached to the trunk to these large limbs to help keep them from breaking off.
I noticed that some of these large limbs had recently been trimmed away from some power lines that line the road. It sort of broke my heart to see these century’s old limbs cut from their trunk, but I understood that it was best. Maybe it’ll help this big tree go on for another few centuries (some white oaks have been known to live for upwards of 600 years).
I found a piece of the tree the crew people who had to cut this imaginary tree forgot to get. It wasn’t a big piece, just big enough to hold in my palm.
We stayed just long enough to feel small. Then we drove away, and I took a few mental images of the tree disappearing behind me in my side mirror. When I got home, I turned a piece of the piece I took with me into a necklace. Maybe when I wear it, it’ll bring me luck.
I thought about that tree as I carved and sanded this little piece of it. And I thought about how its environment changed around it as it grew toward the sky and weathered storms. I thought about how the dirt path disappeared, and a concrete road took its place. I thought about how the occasional person changed to many.
It continued to grow.
Our environments change around us. As we grow and weather storms, what surrounds us changes. Sometimes for the best. Sometimes not. Our outer bark takes the abuse. We get whipped around in high winds and sometimes leave pieces of ourselves at our feet. We just have to learn to sway in the wind and never become too rigid. We have to remember that a lot of the pieces we lose can grow back in time.
We can live long, productive lives with preventive care and good sun and water (and luck). We can shade those that are in need and be a meeting place for those that are lost.
A couple of days after going to see The Birthing Tree, I got to thinking about our own white oak tree that grows in our back yard. I call him Henry. Henry is almost as tall as the one in McMinnville but not as wide around the trunk. I did some research on the internet on how to find the age of white oak. You measure the trunk about the shoulder level, divide by Pi, then multiply by 5.
And I found out that Henry is approximately 170 years old.
He has been here before there was anything was around here. It was just woods. Some squirrel or bird dropped an acorn in a certain spot and now, Henry stands high above our house.
I sit and look up at Henry and wonder what all he’s seen. Maybe he had his own people meet under his large limbs. Maybe he was a meeting place for those that traveled.
But now, he’s ours. That’s, of course, if we can truly own him. If we take care of him and a storm or pest doesn’t fell him, he’ll be here long after we are gone. He’ll continue to grow and reach for the sky.
We could all be so lucky.
If you have a big tree in your yard ( or even a small one) or know of one that you admire, go pat its bark. Or if you’re brave and not afraid of what somebody might think, go put your arms around it and give it a hug. Tell it you love it. and thank it for its shade and the oxygen it gives.
I think I’ll go see what Henry is up to…
-Loyd Elmore Jr
November 5th, 2021
I’ve decided to keep a blog about how I’m dealing with depression. I’m going to consider this a form of therapy. It might not help anybody else but it might help me.