A hundred fifty year old cottonwood tree we named Solomon stood in our front yard until today. Its towering boughs shaded County Road Five on the east, and on the west, a Baltimore Oriole’s nest hung delicately just below its massive canopy.
My youngest son would dream of rock climbing as he vertically navigated this thirty-five foot massive tree. It would offer comforting shade on hot summer days to passersby from Arizona, or Chicago. I would listen to its clapping leaves after writing a poem or watch fireworks twinkle through its leaf filled branches on the opening night of the county fair.
I can only imagine the other tasks given Solomon a hundred years ago. As the young sampling grew, country folk in ox carts plodded through prairie grass, wetlands and rocky clay trails to town to restock their root cellars. I can see in my mind’s eye how this young tree was loved. According to legend, this land was barren of trees; it was a massive tall grass prairie, dotted with wetlands and teeming with birds and waterfowl. So who tended this tree? Was it the garden club or the city’s founding fathers?
Solomon grew and stood guard over this community through the depression, wars, assassinations, space exploration, gene theory, the discovery of super novas and instant communication; always steady, always majestic, always a gatekeeper of this community until July 1, 2011. On this day, eighty mile an hour straight line winds ripped its northernmost bough from the giant trunk like a wolf devouring its prey.
For three months its gaping wound reminded me that its demise was imminent. For three months, wounded Solomon continued to stand guard over a new generation of children walking to the park. Its withering leaves fell to earth in clusters at the wind’s request. It was as if Solomon wanted to witness one last firework display, one last adieu to the migrating Canadian geese and one last harvest season.
Nature is a healer and the elements of Nature can be ruthless – no place to hide from its wrath when the cleansing cycle begins. Nothing is permanent, we all are destined to die but while we are living let’s offer comfort and safe harbor to all who pass by – if Solomon, a mighty cottonwood tree did; so can we.