Magazine article American Forests


Magazine article American Forests


Article excerpt

It's hard to accept the decline of a much-loved backyard centerpiece.

* As we were preparing this article for publication, Grace Goodwin of Big Bend, Wisconsin, wrote to tell us that she is mourning a husband as well as a tree. She graciously shared with us a book of Donn Goodwin's poetry (he was a poet and retired teacher), and we reproduce one of those poems here, with the suggestion that it and "Sugar" have some eloquent things to say about our journey through life.


That grim spectre who Is always there confronted him And left him rumpled on the floor, To wake with music from this world: The funeral goes past his house, as Seneca observed, but it is not For him that God sends summons, he has Much to do, plans to complete before He meets the appointed day. Who are the people, What are the blessings difficult To leave? Loved ones, family, friends . . . But of all joys no more to hear Music, the great gift--or harmonies In nature--is beyond conjecture: Or the answer lies in measures that Restore the dear sounds he reveres! Ah well, celestial choirs!

A good friend of the family is terminally ill. Our friend is 80 feet tall with a diameter of 2 1/2 feet and is estimated to be 250 years old. A big part of the decision 35 years ago as to exactly where our house would be built involved this ancient sugar maple.

For all these years it has been the center of our backyard activities. Its soothing and cooling shade provided an ideal spot for barbecues and picnics. The spreading branches fully leafed out became a natural umbrella when sudden warm summer rains took us by surprise. Rustling leaves accompanied by a chorus of birds produced a natural symphony. While the children were young, it supported a swing and hovered over the sandbox. It seemed to be part of the family.

Perhaps the birds loved it more than any of us did. Untold numbers traveled up and down and over and under that flaky gray bark. Robins built nests in the protective heights, and wrens occupied the houses we hung on the lower limbs. Even in winter the birds enjoyed the suet balls swaying with the wind and the feeder beneath the tree's sheltering arms. It was a tree for all seasons.

In spring we watched the sap flow freely while droplets glistened in the sun. Later we could stand next to the trunk and look up into rich green so luscious we were unable to see a patch of blue.

Now all that has changed, swiftly and dramatically. Three years ago we noticed that the leaves were there in numbers but not is size. …

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