The first is an American Sweetgum tree, which resides just outside my window at work. I'm blessed with a very nice view of OSU's campus in my current office, though you wouldn't know it from a description of what I can see: the university power plant, the tower to that plant, Ohio Statdium, and the Woody Hayes bridge over the Olentangy River. But in between my window and these things is the very top of this sweetgum tree, which is constantly in my view as I sit in my office.
I have been asked to move my office to another one, down the hall, that is the same size and has a similar window. The issue is that the window I will look out every day will no longer have this tree outside it: instead, there will be nothing between my window and the blank, boring brick wall of the power plant. This makes me feel like part of me is being cut off, even more than a normal office job would do, from the cycles of nature.
To explain this, you have to have watched a tree over the course of three years, as I have with this one. Daily, I see it change with the seasons, watching the buds appear in the spring, watching the leaves change in fall. If you are not watching a single tree over time, you may notice these changes, but you won't truly experience the surprise and joy of the first buds powering through the frost, or the last lonely leaf hanging on in the cold wind of winter. And these are just changes in the tree itself: I have also watched squirrels build nests in the tree, seen hawks hunt from it, and watched strange birds pause in it during their migrations. I have learned so much of how the world changes simply from watching this tree that I cannot begin to describe it. But it is, in the end, only a view of a tree, and while my office may move, the lessons from the tree will never leave me.
The second is far more difficult. It is a Curly Willow in my backyard at home. This is an amazingly beautiful tree, with corkscrew leaves and branches that twist and turn, reaching for the heavens. The primary issue is that it grows directly into the powerlines and transformer behind the house, meaning that American Electric Power is "out to get it," and it will have to come down. What makes this harder than the average tree is three-fold:
- First, there is a strong religious connection I have to the tree, which drives the other two reasons. With a divine patron who is shown working and pruning a willow tree to encourage its growth, I find my religous sensibilities are horrified at the prospect of cutting the tree down and destroying it entirely.
- Second, the tree (because of its association with my patron, Esus) was a primary driver in the purchase of the house, and it is probably my favourite thing about the property I own. Without it, I wonder what I will feel about the house.
- Finally, the tree was heavily used in the decorations for our wedding, and it has a lot of meaning for the love my wife and I share.
A lot of this is tempered by the fact that AEP wants to cut the tree down and get rid of it for good reason (it causes a couple power outages each year for both us and our neighbors), and also by the fact that a curly willow only lives for 10-15 years on average, and I've owned the house for seven years. It has, I am afraid, become time to let the tree rest.
So, I agree to move my office down the hall and leave the sweetgum behind. I agree to allow the curly willow to be butchered at the hands of the power company. I agree to all these things, but I also pause and sigh: there is love for these trees that I can hardly express in words. I pray for them, and for myself, and hope that the love I have had for them is known to them in some way.
But I have also taken cuttings of the willow to try and force them to root, so I may replant it. I will still be able to catch a glimpse of this tree from my office window if I press against the glass. Even physically, the trees are not lost to me, though I may be forced to move on: I can, indeed, take them with me. I find myself specifically praying that my hands will be guided to nurture these sprigs of curly willow into trees in their own right.