By Wanda Logan
I had forgotten about the old tree and how she comforted me until, as an adult, I read aloud “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein to my children as they snuggled into their beds. Not having pre-read the story, tears were streaming down my face by the end of the book, but luckily, my children had fallen asleep before the emotion of the story overtook me.
I too had a tree. We lived in a little development against a mountain in north central
during my childhood. I was the eldest. My Mom had divorced and remarried and I had a younger half-sister. We were free to roam the woods and hillsides near our home and often “borrowed” our Fathers’ tools to build ‘tree forts.’ There was a special place called “the wax mine” that was within walking distance. It is told that during the war, explosives were stored there in wax bunkers. We used to pack a lunch and take off for the woods and dig wax out of the old bunkers. I wonder now if it was dangerous? Pennsylvania
On one of the expeditions to the wax mine, I wandered off by myself and came upon a lovely apple tree, all in bloom. The lowest limb was rather close to the ground and seemed to beckon me to sit awhile, which I did. As I gazed up into the tree, white blossoms floated down on me, set free by my movement. I soon noticed that the limb had a crook and that I could settle back and lie down as if resting in a hammock, except that it rocked gently up and down instead of swinging back and forth, releasing more fragrant, snow-white petals. I quieted myself and heard the buzzing of the many bees above me, gathering nectar as they dusted themselves with the yellow pollen. Off in the distance I heard another soothing sound: a brook, bubbling and chuckling along over smooth-edged rocks. I found myself drawn to the sounds of the singing water so I moved to where the edge of the creek met the ground. It was covered in dark green fragrant moss so thick that when I stepped upon it, I felt as if I were floating on clouds. I immediately sat upon the moss, removed my shoes and put my feet into the clear, shining water. It was so cold, my legs ached all the way up to my knees, but as I began to enter the creek and explore, my body grew accustomed to the chilly water.
I felt as if I had discovered paradise on earth! When I reluctantly headed home as the sun was setting, I knew I would revisit my secret spot again and again.
Over the tumultuous years of my teens, I would escape to the apple tree, the green, fragrant moss, and singing water to avoid the wrath of my mother; to find that quiet place of inner piece; to tattoo the initials of my lover into the bark of the tree; and later to weep over lost love.
I recently revisited my old hometown and decided to go and look for my tree. A factory had been built near the place where the tree was located. Would I even be able to find the place? I hiked around the perimeter of the factory grounds and found the path beside the creek that led to the wax mine and then on to my spot. I rounded the bunkers and looked to where the tree once stood. Amazingly, it was still there! The limb I used to rest on was touching the ground and the tree itself looked like there wasn’t much life left. I softly approached my old friend who knew so many of my secrets and gently stroked her rough, dry, peeling bark. I felt like the character in “The Giving Tree.” I leaned against the apple tree and whispered my thanks and gathered pieces of broken limbs on the ground to remember her. I gave thanks for living in a time and place that allowed me to have this most precious experience of loving a tree; of lying in rich green, fragrant moss; of washing away my tears and fears in a bubbling brook. Have you hugged a tree today?