I am devastated. My favorite tree on our 57 acres is a large white oak that sits at the end of our parking lot, near the lamppost and walkway up to the inn. I don’t know how old it is, but it is massive and perfectly shaped and provides shade for our front yard all the way to the Rondette. It is the tree I see as I sit in the office. To me, this tree is the symbol of strength, health, and endurance. I thought it would long out live me. I was wrong.
Last week, while I was away from the inn, I received a call from one of our housekeepers informing me a large branch had fallen from a tree. We have lots of trees and this is not an uncommon occurrence. We have also cut down several trees recently that were potential dangerous. We have also identified several others that would need attention pretty soon. When the housekeeper called, I was having trouble understanding which tree she was referring to. I assumed it was one we were watching. Instead, it was, the big, strong oak tree I loved so much. When I finally realized this, I was speechless and could not believe it. I returned to the inn and discovered it was really more than a single branch, nearly half the tree had fallen and was covering half the front yard and the drive way down to the Woody Cottage. We would have to clean it up fast because we had guests coming for Labor Day weekend, but we had to face another hard reality. The remaining tree was heavily weighted to one side. It was safe for now, but we would have to take down the rest of the tree. I grieved.
To me, the oak tree represented Hemlock Inn in a way. It was a small tree when the inn opened in 1952. It grew over the years. It endured storms of wind, rain, lightning, and snow. It remained strong. Hemlock Inn has grown over its 64 years from a small 8 room inn open just a few months in the summer, to its current size of 25 rooms, three cottages now open nine months of the year. It has experienced growth and endured changes. It has survived the great financial crisis of 2008 that still lingers to some degree. It has seen changes in guest needs and desires and the challenges of increasing competition in recent years as our area grew and added many more rental rooms and cabins. But the inn has remained strong because its foundation is sturdy.
The trunk of the oak tree is still sturdy and strong. But we are told that up 8 or so feet up the tree, where the huge branches begin to spread out, there was a pocket, unseen and unknown to any of us. Over many, many years, that area collected water. In the winter, the pool of water would freeze, creating cracks and would be filled with rain water the rest of the year that very slowly ate away at the tree. The strain finally came too much, and it gave way. It was a flaw we never knew existed and it secretly ate away at this giant symbol of strength.
There is a lesson there I guess. Perhaps we should all realize we may have little secret flaws in how we handle our lives that need attention before they grow and cause major damage. Or perhaps, we can recognize that some folks have physical issues that affects their lives. We need to love them more and admire them for staying strong under conditions we do not experience. Maybe the real lesson here is that no matter what, our base, our foundation of beliefs, and actions must remain firm at all cost. Our branches may fall and may threaten our way of living, but our being is intact.
I will miss the oak tree, but its usefulness will continue. We are asking the tree cutters to save the lumber. We will eventually cut it into the proper length and spilt it for firewood. Then every time we build a morning or evening fire, we can not only bask in the glow of the blaze, but also remember the big oak and give thanks for its years of shade and coolness and now its warmth.
Once we remove the big oak, we will see another oak as well as a dogwood just behind it in the woods surrounding the Rondette. They will now have more room to expand and grow. Perhaps, in time, we will marvel at this marvelous and splendid tree. Life continues to throw us curves, only to bless us as well.