It’s hard to say exactly when I developed a crush on the tree. I suppose I could dig back through all the photos and find the first one. It’d be a job, though. I’ve taken hundreds by now.
I was sitting in my car at the end of our rural drive one morning, waiting for a combine to lumber past, and I looked across the road and the kaleidoscope shifted a little. I’d probably sat in that exact spot a thousand times, but that morning I looked over and thought, “I love that tree.” I don’t remember if I hopped out of the car right then and took a picture. If I didn’t, I’ve made up for it since.
Our friend Walter gave me the idea, really, and he got it from someone else first. He started to take a picture of the same place near his home once every three months. He was tracking the seasons, yes, but also the subtle changes that come to a place, and the things that stay the same.
I take a picture more often than four times a year, and not on a schedule. I shoot when I see the tree in a new mood, wearing new spring clothes, or flirting with transient cloud formations that haven’t come around before.
Sometimes, local folks who read my ramblings have asked me where my tree is. They’ve tried to figure it out, going past the house, and can’t see it. The thing is, to really see the tree, you have to be still. If you’re buzzing past at speed inside a comfortable sedan, you’ll miss it. The view from the end of our lane is pretty good, but really you need to cross the road and jump the ditch. It turns out that trees are like people. You have to work a little to get to the best bits.
I love the tree for being lopsided, just a little, like me. I love the roots that go down deep into Ohio soil. I love the stripped branch near the bottom of the canopy that survived the worst windstorm I’ve ever prayed through, taking a beating but hanging on, hanging on, hanging on. I love the regrowth on that branch. I love the way the tree changes and the way it seems ageless. I love that beauty is there, so close, but that I have to pay attention, and maybe get my feet wet. I love the suggestion of loneliness and the evidence of endurance.
It’s just a tree. I know. But for all that, it’s still how I’d like to be.