The oak tree died. A beautiful old oak planted 70 years ago. Nestled between two white birch we watched the leaves on the birch trees turning green in early spring. It was that mellow light green that signified the cycle of the seasons.
The oak leaves did not turn green.
The leaves on the oak still hung on from the previous fall. Usually oak leaves turn brown but remain on the tree through the winter before slowly dropping off and making room for new growth. Once the leaves have fallen off, as spring approaches, an abundance of green dresses the branches for another year.
Not this year.
Once again that eternal question––what had happened? Why had death seized the oak in the days of a barren winter?
The answer seemed to lie in the heavy machinery brought in months before to repair the stone wall that separated the lake from the point of dry land.
Perhaps the heavy equipment had disturbed the tree roots, eventually killing the tree.
But, in contrast, the birch trees which were also nearby, thrived. All we knew was that the oak, which once held two swings and was filled with holes where squirrels hid their acorn supplies for the winter had died.
Dead. A tree. But more than a tree. A legacy, a heritage, a remembrance of earlier times in the history of the family. All that remained now was sadness and melancholy. Dead. The tree was dead.
Only one option remained. To cut down the oak. To sever the past. So we called Dave, the tree specialist, and told him about the heavy equipment that, we believed, had destroyed the oak tree.
Dave nodded but it was one of those North Country nods that means “Maybe. Maybe.” In other words, “I have my doubts.”
Dave came in the midst of this winter to cut down the tree and after he had completed the work he called our house “I will tell you, the machines might have played a part in speeding the end of the tree but when the tree fell we noticed that the middle was not only dead but it was split in two. Sooner or later one half would have fallen.”
So now, when I look at the empty space where the tree once stood, I understand that neither a tree nor a human can live if it is split in the middle. We need to remain whole unto ourselves and if we do not, when the world whips against us, we will fall.
Be who you are but above all be whole as a person. No one wants to be a divided self.