I was working from home last Wednesday and noticed the sound of large trucks in the neighborhood, meaning a big job was being done somewhere near our house. At one point during the day there was a huge THUD! and our floorboards communicated the vibrations of something tremendous hitting the ground nearby.
It wasn’t until later that I looked out the window and discovered what had been going on. A crew from the city had been working all day taking down what was probably the largest tree for several blocks.
It was a huge pine tree. I’m not good with estimating how tall things are without being able to actually count rows of windows in a building, but I’m guessing this tree was maybe the equivalent of a five-story building. I could see it out our kitchen window, and when it was storming and blowing, I’d watch it, and it would move some but not much; it was solid and grounded. I spend at least an hour each morning in a room that looks out to that tree, and it was always an impressive sight, towering dark with the colors of the sunrise behind it.
I even sat outside one summer and sketched the pine after taking a short drawing course and wanting to practice my skills on area trees. A hawk used this tree as a home base, along with a nearby elm. The tree simply was a big part of what I noticed in the area immediately outside of our home.
And now it’s gone. It’s just gone. When I look out the south windows, there’s only sky where the tree used to be. I haven’t seen the hawk to guess how it’s adjusting, but I miss the tree. The air feels emptier without it there.
My friend Vera shares a quote with me about stories. She says, “When a person dies, a whole library dies with them.” Losing this tree reminded me, symbolically at least, of the hole that’s left when someone dies, when the space that person occupied is empty, and that empty space is actually a shock to the senses.
I was sad because I didn’t have photo of the tree to remind me of how it looked, towering over the southern half of our block. I was discouraged thinking it was up to just my memory to recall how the branches looked in the morning and how much strength it displayed in Nebraska storms.
But then I remembered my sketchbook and the drawing that I’d made. While the piece isn’t going to find its way to an art gallery, it is a representation of the tree that I am missing, and while it doesn’t take the sting away when I see just sky where there once was a towering pine, it’s something. And it’s something that’s comforting and good.
My dad used to tell stories about his mother. I never knew my Grandma Larsen and neither did my mom. Grandma Larsen died before Dad and Mom even met, so Dad’s stories were what I had to try to form a picture in my mind and in my heart of who this woman was. I still don’t know much about her, but the stories are something. And they’re something that’s comforting and good.
“When a person dies, a whole library dies with them,” says Vera. What can you do to help keep even part of that library of stories alive, whether those stories are about someone you love or whether they are your own?