In one of his rare, but famous interviews, the 2000 Year Old Man (aka Mel Brooks) wisely warned us that “we mock the thing we are to be”. And in my travels through life, I have found this bit of wisdom to be truer that I sometimes care to admit. I have also tried to take this bit of wisdom to heart as I have aged, even though I do not consider myself that old (barring the AARP invitation I received last year). But today, however, I was abruptly reminded about it in a manner none too blunt.
After several years of pondering and delays, we had a very large, but sick and dying, cherry tree removed from our back yard this morning. The tree, which was about 60 feet (20m) tall, towered over our back yard, and was a central place of gathering for all of the visiting birds and squirrels. In the spring time, male finches would perch atop the tree and sing to their prospective mates from before dawn until well past dusk. The squirrels, on the other hand, loved to use the tree to travel from our car port and an adjacent birch tree, over to our neighbor’s yard, all while avoiding the neighborhood cats who liked to take up patrol when they were not napping in the sun.
I was sad to see the tree removed, in part, because of the years we spent trying to attract birds to our yard. We have already planned to plant a replacement tree in its place, but as the reality of the tree coming down on this rainy, cold morning hit me, another piece of wisdom came to mind.
Years ago, while doing research for a project at work, I came across an old Greek proverb that really resonated with me. It said that “a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”. I thought it was a very beautiful proverb, as it reflecting societal values that I believe in. But, it seems that I never fully took the words to heart in my own life until today. Yes, as I said above, we will be planting a young tree in its place, and hopefully the birds and the squirrels will enjoy it when they return to visit our yard. But, short of planting bamboo, I suddenly realized that I will not be the prime recipient of the shade that this new tree will eventually offer when it matures.
Now, I clearly do not identify myself as an old man like the ones that I envision in the old Greek proverb, but, I am finding more and more that I am making decisions at work and in my personal life that may impact others as much as, if not more than, myself in the future. I am not sure what the people who planted this tree thought when they planted it (in the 1950’s when the house was built, I suspect), but regardless of their motive, I am happy they took the time and effort to do so. I am looking forward to planting a new tree and watching it take root. And if it should ever reach a height even close to what our cherry tree did, I hope that whoever is living in our home at the time will enjoy the shade it provides.
The photo below is literally one of the first photos I took when I made the transition from film to digital. I purchased my first digital camera in the spring of 2002, and the cherry tree was in full bloom at the time. Cherry blossoms can be very short-lived here in Puget Sound, and if we are lucky and the weather is dry enough, we are also able to enjoy a bit of “snow showers” before the blossoms disappear. Thankfully, cherry blossom season has just begun this year, and while we were not able to enjoy a show in our back yard, I was able to take a bit of comfort from a post put up by a friend this morning. Thanks Kris! Your timing could not have been better.