Trees were an important part of my life. I have through the years tried to instill this same feeling in my children. There are certain trees that have fared me well in these ventures.
There is an old oak tree that lives on Oatland Island (Savannah’s Zoo it is sometimes called). It has a few native Georgia animals, an old heritage home site, a marsh boardwalk, and native woodlands with trails. It is run by the local school system. There is one tree we encountered many years ago that now sits in front of the wolf observatory. Back then it was an oak tree along a path that led to the wolf compound. It had a limb that stood out at about my chest height. It was the perfect limb to sit my son and then later his two sisters. We took pictures of each on that limb every time we were there. As they grew older they no longer were content with my placing them on the limb but now insisted on climbing to the spot. It was our tree. At least I thought it was. But through the years that limb began to develop a distinct butt impression from all of the other children who had obviously been hoisted or climbed to that exact spot. It was obviously its own exhibit for many children over the years. Because of erosion the tree is shorter; it is more the height of my hip now. My children who are much older now still insist on sitting there. Regretfully, it looks as though in another ten years, although they have taken measures to preserve it, this tree will be gone. But it will not leave without living a full life of beauty and charm for several generations. Who could ask more from our friend?
There is a circle park that lies between the kindergarten through eighth grade public school and our home. Both of my daughters attended every year there. The park has two benches, grass lawn, a few smaller trees and five huge oak trees. The park is quiet for the most part. But for two hours after school it becomes the release valve of joy and play for many children before they go home or go to their various sport or ballet practices. There is no playground, only grass and trees. So for many of the children it has been the place where they first learn the fine art of tree climbing. There is one oak tree that is the favorite. Its big broad limbs reach almost to the ground. The sight of the smaller children hoisting their friends up to the limb is both charming and comical. My two daughters each have spent many an afternoon in that tree climbing higher and higher into the massive tall tree. It is a parental lesson for conquering your fears for your children as they venture higher and higher into the tree that appears at times to touch the sky. As a parent you battle your desires of how high should you let them climb without you being able to help them. This desire is balanced by the desire to be the parent who does not teach fear or stunt their natural growth. Every day the children push higher into the tree and every day the parent stands at the bottom trying to encourage and yet fighting the urge to say slow down. The cycle of life lives out at the circle park every day.
There is an old cedar tree that reaches out over the Skidaway Marsh in Skidaway Island State Park. It is a tree that begs you to climb and stretch over the wet marsh. There is risk in that if you fall you will be wet or at least muddy. But the tree has that wonderful scent of cedar and cragginess of an old tree. My children love to sit and rest and view the marsh here. We had a wonderful picnic on that tree once. A memory etched in my heart forever. My oldest daughter, who now goes to Georgia Tech, took a photography class and wanted to incorporate the tree into her portfolio. She returned to take the picture of the tree; it was gone. The recent hurricane had taken it with it. Hurricanes are one of life’s chaotic binges that can change our lives forever. My daughter returned to Georgia Tech once again as she grows more and more independent. But there is a memory of a tree that once shared its life with us. There are moments of time that are frozen within that can never be totally lost. A tree that we thought would be with us for many more years of our life was struck down. Sadly it was struck down before it could be memorialize.
Trees are our companions along this life. They as the different people we meet have lessons to teach and memories to give. I honestly believe that trees are part of the village we need to raise our children. The trees of my children are more than these three but for now we rest the pen and smile and remember.