Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Secret Tree

Nearly 30 years ago, while cutting pulpwood on a woodlot in the Town of Waldo, the landowner asked me to go with him to try and find a very special tree. He said that in the beginning, he had simply stumbled upon the tree. After that, he had gone back to view it several times and each time, had great difficulty in pinpointing the tree’s location.

We had the same problem and again, only found the tree by sheer accident. As we slogged through boggy, wet ground, getting slapped in the face by alders and attacked by mosquitoes, our quest seemed a terrible waste of time and energy. And then, in the middle of a small clearing, we found the “Secret” tree. As red maples go, it was pretty much a maverick. Bent, twisted and at once beautiful and grotesque, the tree bespoke of the amazing tenacity that is built into every living thing. Damaged at some date far in the past, the tree grew down and then back up, a living pretzel. And of all things, the tree had a hollow section on the bottom, large enough so that a small animal could easily pass through it.

We marveled for a while, and then went back to work dropping and limbing fragrant, balsam fir to sell to the pulp mill in Bucksport. But the picture of the secret tree remained emblazoned upon my mind’s eye, never to be forgotten. Today, I own that woodlot and in fact, live on it. And the secret tree? It stands on the edge of a little pond that I dug just in front of it and it is the focal point of a small clearing. Over the years, I have planted various perennial plants and shrubs along the little path leading from my house, up a gentle hill to the pond and the secret tree. The clearing, with the pond and tree, are a destination of worth and scarcely a day passes but what I don’t make the short pilgrimage up the hill, to gaze in wonder at the secret tree.

So the tree has become part of my life. And to think that at one time, it was all I could do to even locate it. But now I am familiar with the tree in every season, from soft, pastel spring to crimson fall and into stark, black-and-white winter. The tree is mine now, and I am its.

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