The first thing I noticed when I pulled in the driveway of the offset country home on Stony Point Road was the archway of ash trees that lined the entrance way. It was not a long driveway, and the canopy was warm and inviting. There were a multitude of other things to notice about this particular home from the long row of rhubarb plants, to the (what used to be a) strawberry patch and most notably the tree that had been "repaired" and lovingly named "Frankentree". More than anything I just remember the feeling I that took over when I pulled in under the ash trees. It was safe.
The home belongs to the family of my closest friend, and is worth note because it has long been a place of haven and solace for her, and anyone who she graces with the opportunity to share it with her. As is true with any childhood homestead, she holds on to the moments and memories that she had there, and she also stands to inherit the place someday. We have been on many adventures on Stony Point Road; walking the grounds as she told tales of the landmarks, harvesting the fruit and vegetables, and taking family pictures by the most scenic areas. The ash trees that line the driveway were hand dug by her father and lovingly planted to represent each member of the family. Her brother's tree has required a constant hand and diligent care, but it is thriving and symbolic. Trees provide a certain majesty which, when in our lives over time, we take for granted.
She recently discovered that the Emerald Ash Borer has made it's way to their town and has been found at the property directly next to the family home. It is devastating. The insect's presence is an inevitable doom to these statuesque arboreal beauties. She told me in our chat last night and we cried. She sobbed. I knew that it was so much more than the trees. She loves trees, has a degree in forestry and sits on her town's tree commission, but it's so much more than the trees. "Frankentree" exists because this family can't bring themselves to remove anything of value from the property. It's the helplessness that she feels at having to watch a symbol of her youth and memory of her childhood disappear. Trees represent a strong and unwavering hope, but are also just as vulnerable as hope.
My only words to her were to take as many pictures as she could, with and without members of the family and create a plan for planting new. It'll be a difficult thing for her family and the transition will be painful, but facing the inevitability of it head on and making positive moments will allow her some closure.
There aren't many things that hold that level of value in my heart. My loved ones, of course, occupy that space, but there are no trees. There are landmarks of my childhood, stories that endure and pictures of places that hold meaning. I don't feel like I've missed out on something, but there is a part of me that wants the trees. And not just for me. It's so rare that families are still in the same home they grew up in. It's even more rare that it has been passed down for generations. My children may never have the quintessential "childhood home" because it is no longer the norm and our choices have led us down a different path. Sometimes I feel like I want to give them that, but I'm not sure that's who we are. I think planting roots is admirable and steadfast. It takes a commitment level that our parents' parents had. I love the possibility and ideology of settling down but I am also self aware enough to know that if opportunity presents itself and will enable my family more of anything, I usually weigh the options. I feel that it's important to stay fluid, at least for now. I'm willing to change as our needs, wants and ideals do. I love tradition, and will continue to create and establish them for our little unit. Our challenge is accepting that we do not fit the mold of stationary life while surrounded by stationary life.
Trees are stationary and look like pillars of security, but they are just as susceptible to extraneous circumstances as we are. I feel that there is a lesson in my friend's loss. The association of this experience to my own introspection feels slightly narcissistic, but I was deeply moved by her plight. I have a strong sense of empathy and it hurt to hear her so sad. I thought about how hard it would be to lose something like that after so long. I'm not trying to avoid hurt or loss, but it made me realize that investing in something so fragile can be precarious. More importantly, I realized that I invest in precarious every day. Love is precarious, change is precarious, life is precarious. I put myself out there every day, and I experience so much new that if I was going to be majorly derailed, it may have already happened. I am not afraid of precarious, vulnerable or stationary. I'm afraid of making choices that aren't right for my family, and ultimately for me. A deep part of me longs to plant the roots of a giving tree, but I needed the clarity to see that the roots that I plant are intangible. The friend that is losing the forest of ash trees is my ash tree. My husband is my ash tree. My children are my ash tree. My family, though far away, are a canopy of ash trees. Hopefully, I am theirs. I have deep roots already, and they are stationary.
Moment of design captured...