Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn Connecting the Present with the Past - Page 17

sweet auburn | 2019 volume i Nevertheless, I held onto my childish hopes. I wished fervently that this beloved tree, with the help of its diligent caretakers, would stay well. That it might even get better, if that was arboreally possible. And please, oh please, I wished for it to not disappear on me, not anytime soon.   Despite my wishes, the “Come say your goodbyes” email arrived in my inbox long before I expected to find it there. As with a family member nearing the end of a good long life, I rationally understood that the end was nigh. And yet—first came the unhappy shock, and then came the heartache. Because, really, are any of us ever ready to say goodbye to a beloved elder?   I paid my last visit on a particularly warm January afternoon. The sun was still bright as the 5 o’clock hour approached, and as the beech’s elegant shadows extending toward Story Chapel. I was relieved for the landscape’s winter bareness, which rendered the tree’s impending demise less obvious. I snapped a few photos of the very tips of the beech’s lowest branches, each one seeking out the sun, offering up tight crimson buds, so optimistic, so promising, so full of the expectation that there would be another change of seasons to behold. I returned a week later, just after the arborists had carefully and painstakingly felled the immense trunk and massive branches. The remaining stump, not yet ground down, was awash in sunshine. I couldn’t help but step up onto the spot where the tree had stood for well over a century, to fully appreciate its girth, easily 9 feet across, perhaps a good 15 feet from where the emerging roots on one side disappeared into the earth on the other side. I turned away from the newly wide-open view to Bigelow Chapel, and with the sun at my back, spied my insignificant shadow, right there, where the beech tree’s ought to have been.   A beloved grandmother-in-law of mine often said, “Don’t be sad when something ends. Be happy that you had it for as long as you did.” I didn’t know this tree in its youth, back when it was an understudy to a row of grand American Elms that have been gone for decades. I didn’t know this beech tree in its prime, when I was busy coming of age. The truth is, I didn’t fully appreciate this glorious creature, big enough to be its own ecosystem, deserving of its own zip code, until it was already busy dying.   But boy, am I ever grateful that I made its acquaintance. I still have two of the beech’s budded branches. They’re at home, in a vase, in a bright spot. I’m crossing my fingers for a little bit of magic, hoping that I might coax out one more bloom of new birth, one last springtime harbinger of a season to come.  15