Requiem for an Oak tree

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The Bancroft Garden Oak tree

 

The one thing we know for certain in life is that all things must die.  A mayfly lives but 1 day, a man live 80 years or so, and an oak tree might live 300 years, but death is inevitable for all of us.

On the ground of the Ruth Bancroft Garden stands an oak that was there when the first Spanish explorers came through in the late 1700’s.  It was there when Kit Carson came through the Diablo Valley in the 1830’s, and when Corporal Pacheco got his land grant.  It was there when the Bancrofts first  planted pears and walnuts, and was already mature 42 years ago when Mrs. Bancroft started her garden.

Now, it is time for that tree to join it’s ancestors.  Too much happening, too many people walking on its root structure, too many years of standing tall have taken their toll and the tree is no longer safe–it must be taken down before it falls down.

But this is California, so a ceremony honoring the tree and its history was in order last Sunday.

About 30 of us came together for what can only be considered a funeral for a tree.  We sang, we prayed, we burned herbs and banged drums.  It might seem strange in Kansas, but it was completely appropriate here.

A bundle of sage was burned.

A bundle of sage was burned.

 

Rebecca Ynez led the group in a song of praise.

Rebecca Ynez led the group in a song of praise.

 

Doc spoke of the history of the native people

Doc spoke of the history of the native people

 

We couldn’t form a circle around the tree, so a line was stretched that we could all hold onto as a symbolic connection.

We were connected to the tree, and to each other.

We were connected to the tree, and to each other.

Becky Rice Harrington came out of retirement to speak.

Becky Rice Harrington came out of retirement to speak.

 

Billie Hopper and Rebecca Ynez

Billie Hopper and Rebecca Ynez

 

The ceremony lasted perhaps 30 minutes.  It was gentle, contemplative and reassuring.  Death is a part of the circle of life, and we must accept it.  I’m glad the garden took the time and effort to honor this tree rather than just knock it down, and I’m glad I went.

 

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The tree cut down to just its trunk.

The tree cut down to just its trunk.

 

That was Sunday.  On Monday, I went by to see the result.

A large professional crew came, took down the limbs and then removed the trunk.  Many of the large limbs will be saved to be turned into seating and borders for the garden–so the tree will continue to serve.

 

fallingtree

 

 

 

 

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