I first read “The Hobbit” in the fifth grade, and “The Lord of the Rings” when I was in the seventh. I fell in love with the characters, and I wanted to be a hobbit for a long time. Like a hobbit, I love comfort, I’m always ready to eat or take a nap, and I have thick wavy hair. I love to grow flowers, and I’m a good cook. All I needed, I thought for many years, was a house with a little round door.
But now that I am older, and have owned my own home and yard for many years, I can see that I was wrong. Now I’m pretty sure that I am an elf.
Oh, I know. I’m not tall, blonde or graceful, and I sure can’t shoot an arrow. But I most definitely feel an affinity for the trees.
This beautiful sugar maple stands just off my deck, at the spot where our yard meets the woods. I have watched its leaves open for 22 years, have enjoyed its shade every summer, have admired its golden orange foliage every October. Paul and the boys used to tap it in February to make maple syrup. It’s like a beautiful guardian of our property. Like a lovely old friend.
Yesterday I was home alone, because the kids and Paul were hiking for the weekend. It was early evening, and I was on the deck, grilling my dinner. As I stood there in the silence, with the sun setting behind me, I looked out into my woods. I was struck by how the sugar maple had grown. When we moved in here, it was a medium sized tree, and I could look over its head into the sky above the forest. Now it fills that area of sky, spreading its branches over what used to be part of our lawn.
I looked around the yard, thinking of how the trees have changed in the time that we have lived here. They grew up with my children. And some have gone just as the children have.
I remember when this pine was taken down, after we realized that it was too old and too unsound to remain where it might fall on the roof. I remember how sad I have been each time we have had to bring a tree down. The loss that I felt as each of our sentinels crashed down to earth in a shower of broken limbs.
We have lost branches to ice storms, wind storms and even a hurricane or two. Like an elf, I suffered the pain of each break, feeling it deep in my own heart. Each snapped branch has felt to me like a broken arm, but one I can’t soothe or cast or ease in any way.
Like one of Tolkien’s elves, I also celebrate the new growth of my trees. Yesterday, as I walked around the yard, I was aware of how steadily the woods are growing into the yard. There is a beautiful stand of hemlock on the edge of the woods in a spot that used to be all grass. There is a group of new young white pines, clustered together like the children of the trees we have lost.And everywhere I look, I see new saplings rising. Maple saplings grow on the stumps of old pines. Hemlock, pine and even a spruce or two pop up in every sunny break in the woods. There is such a feeling of “life goes on”, of renewal, of hope in the future. The trees keep coming, keep growing, keep filling in the spaces.
Like Legolas Greenleaf of Middle Earth, I am happy to see each baby tree. I greet each one with a smile and some words of encouragement. And I let them grow, even when they are in the middle of my daylillies.