Posted on: September 17, 2018 | Written By: Kristin Uhing |
They say that “home is where you hang your heart.” Growing up in West View my outdoor home was where I hung my heart, especially in my Maple tree. She was like a family member to me. I grew up never knowing life without her. As a baby she provided shade for my playpen. Later she shaded my swing set where my friends and I spent countless hours. Years later my children’s swing set was there and another generation of neighborhood children enjoyed her love and comfort. She provided a place to hang the basketball hoop that my dad fashioned from a bushel basket and also was where he hung my tire swing. I loved that tree with all my heart.
She was a Norway Maple. Some people love to hate this invasive tree but I will always love the Norway Maple and hold it on the altar of my heart. I used to spend my alone time climbing up and sitting in the branches. I can still remember where each of the lower branches was and the technique I used for getting up into the arms of my sweet tree by wrapping my hands around one of her lower, but still barely reachable limbs; then walking my feet up her wide trunk and swinging my body onto one of her arms. I remember the many helicopter seed pods and all of the baby Maples that grew in the yard, only to be mowed down. I remember the feel of her bark, her gentle touch. I remember it all in great detail…the feel, the smell, the look. The squirrels, the birds, the insects, and mostly the way I felt. She was a true and trusted friend. I can still see her. Just thinking about her makes me well up. She gave so much.
It’s difficult to put into words how I felt about her, how much I loved her and how I still mourn her death. My heart was broken beyond repair when my mother boldly announced at the dinner table that she had had the tree cut down. It was 1980. My husband, children and I had just arrived back in Pittsburgh from living in Washington State; it was nighttime and I hadn’t yet seen the death and destruction. It was akin to hearing that a dear friend had been killed, our relationship cut short. We still had so much growing to do together. I couldn’t believe the cruelty and the lack of understanding on my mother’s part. I still don’t understand how she committed such an atrocity. She just didn’t “get it”. I was in shock and still carry that sadness with me. I think of her often. I can still feel her bark on my hands, ruggedly smooth and soft…so gentle to the touch. Everything about her was perfect and I miss her still. Forever in love with my Maple and so grateful to have known her. After all, I hung my heart in her sweet branches.
The story is all past tense, but what lives on? What is the future? How does her story continue? The physical manifestation of the tree is gone. The tall, strong trunk is gone. The glorious crown of perfectly shaped leaves is gone. Even the roots are gone. But the energy of this mighty being carries on. The energy and loving spirit lives on and her seeds continue each spring, to awaken and to give life to a new generation of maple seedlings wherever they can find a welcoming foot hold. So, her spirit lives on eternally, a symbol of love, strength and generosity.
Doug Oster is manager and editor of Everybody Gardens with a passion for gardening and a love of sharing is experiences with other gardeners. You will also find Doug’s gardening contributions in the Tribune-Review each week. He’s an Emmy Award winning producer, television host and writer. Oster is co-host of The Organic Gardeners Radio show every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. Oster’s Outstanding Documentary Emmy was awarded for Gardens of Pennsylvania, a one hour special he conceived and produced for the PBS affiliate WQED. Doug appears every Thursday morning on KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today live at 9 a.m. “Gardening is fun, he says, enjoy every day spent outside tending vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees.”