As I walk the parkway each morning I fall in love with some of the trees. The small crabapples seduce me with explosions of pink and white blossoms in the spring, and their twisted branches haunt me in the winter. I adore the huge oak that towers above me and reaches out over the parkway with gnarled and upturned hands. In autumn it showers the parkway with leathery brown leaves, and squirrels revel in the fresh crop of acorns. I love the huge willow trees by the bridge over the parkway river. They are the first to green in the spring and the last to lose color in the fall, and their long hair vines and big knobby trunks intrigue me. One of the willows has five trunks, and I have affectionately named it my family tree, one limb for each of us.
My first love was the chalice tree. As I turned south to enter the parkway, an old hackberry stood at the corner. It was not a particularly pretty tree, but it always caught my attention because it was separate from its large neighbors. After several walks I noticed that the straight base trunk separated into several large branches, all at the same conjunction. They formed a cup shape which spread and ascended into a full leafy top. I nicknamed it the chalice tree. I often thought about Christ when I saw the tree, and I began to associate it with things spiritual. It became a symbol of light to me, and I was especially fond of it. I have photographs of God rays coming through its branches. I thought of it as my special tree.
While on a morning walk two springs ago, I saw park maintenance men cutting it down. I was with my husband at the time, and I commented to him how much I loved the tree and why. We realized that the tree was being removed to give better visibility to drivers entering the parkway, and that it would indeed be a good improvement. My logical self agreed-after all, it’s just a tree-, but my heart was very sad. I grieved for the loss of my tree.
After we returned home, my husband returned and inquired about the wood remaining. Is it available for firewood, he asked. He was given permission to gather up the remnants, and he brought them home.
I thought of the children’s book The Giving Tree. The chalice tree had now become our own giving tree. As it was cut into pieces, my heart was also wounded, but now it lives in my home, creating heat and light to warm the soul as well as the body. It became part of the very air I breathed. It became part of me.