It seems like yesterday that I bought the home that I live in and planted a row of Cutleaf Sumacs on the parking strip. I planted several other trees as well, which are now taller than the roof line by many feet. When I bought this home there was only one solitary italian plum tree in the yard. I had imagined my garden to be green, lush, full of perspective and depth and was consumed that summer by planting – I couldn’t wait for the garden to grow! That was the summer of ‘87. It’s hard to grasp that 26 years have passed since that day. I didn’t really believe what more experienced gardeners had warned me about – things mature fast and well in the moist and temperate climate of the north west!
A week or so ago I woke up to find the last of the Sumac trees down on its side as if it had fallen asleep on the grass. The strong winds of the night had encouraged its slumber. In falling it had managed to find a perfect spot. It missed the neighbors car by millimetres and my newly planted flower bed by inches.26 years is an incredible life span for a tree to have – this one particularly was the last of 4 Sumacs I had planted to die. I know that death is part of the cycle, and yet I was so surprised. I was surprised that the tree was gone – that the known presence of the tree was no longer there as it was the day before and many days before that.
I remember the day that I planted the Sumacs – it was warm. I remember how I felt – the excitement and desire to see these trees grow and fill out is still fresh. I remember thinking “I wonder what life will look like when these trees are big!”. The evidence of the passing of time is everywhere, but I don’t have an inner sense of so much time having passed. Other than once in a while being awed by how tall the trees had become. What I didn’t think about was death. My perspective was that the goal in life was to reach maturation, but not much beyond that. Now that I am here and from this point of view, I am more and more aware that the cycle of this tree does not end at fullness. Now I can see that it continues to the end of life. And then the renewal – recycle – transformation cycle can begin a new life.
Today I honor and celebrate the life of this tree. The shade it gave me and the housing it gave to birds and other creatures. This is a tree that I so enjoyed watching every Winter – when there isn’t much left on the trees a sumac still has beautiful, velvety, burgundy colored seed pods. The Starlings would come in January and chatter around in flocks, completely covering the tree and over a period of a week would pick the Sumacs bare.
Take care of yourself,