Under the watchful boughs of a maple
There's a very tall and regal maple tree in my yard that stands elegantly between the house and the driveway; it's a sturdy and confident tree.
The maple's canopy of leaves is perfectly round in the summer, offering calm and quiet shade for the house throughout the morning as the sun casually crosses into the afternoon. Across the road is a giant pine plantation, and most of the trees closer to the house are also pines; the rough and dull pines aren't nearly as pretty as the maple. The big maple stands out like a prom queen; it's beautiful.
Over the years I have watched my children hang from the maple's limbs in youthful games of fun, their smiles broad and wide. Our new orange cat has already scaled the big beauty. In the heat of the day the dogs lie around under the maple's cool limbs. I guess we all like the maple tree.
In the autumn the kids and I rake up the golden and umber leaves that the maple has offered to us. We'll run across the yard and dive headlong into the piles of color, disappearing for a bit only to emerge laughing and giggling. Then we'll rake the leaves up and do it again.
When we play wiffle ball in the summer, first base is always the willow tree root near the fence, the edge of the driveway is second base and the maple tree is third base. The maple tree also marks the goal line for our football contests. And to score a goal in soccer you've got to get the ball past the maple tree. Come to think of it, we include the maple in most of our games.
Our picnic table is also under the maple; off to one side. At one time or another we've pinned colored balloons to the maple tree, strung bright banners from its limbs and included the big tree in our little-kid birthday parties. She's right there in the photo album, along with the rest of us.
There have been other times when I've just simply stretched out in the grass under the maple in the late afternoon and rested my head against her trunk. Staring back up through the limbs the maple climbs toward heaven; it goes on forever. Our maple is really a great tree and I'm glad she is here.
When we bought our house nearly 15 years ago the man who was selling it grew up here on what was once a small farm. When they were little, this man and his brother and his sister slept in the upstairs as children; his parents and his grandparents slept downstairs. Theirs was a close family, and it was a tiny house.
As he and I looked through the house and around the land, the man showed me the property lines. We walked slowly through the fields. We drifted down to the garage. I could tell he had reservations about selling his childhood home. His boyhood memories were made here; of Christmas celebrations, of Thanksgiving dinners, of their own birthday parties. They were a family. It was more than a house for this man, it was home, and in many ways it always will be.
But this man has moved away; he grew up and taught school in Rice Lake, raised his own family and is now retired. His other brother lives in Alabama. When I met him, the man's elderly mother lived in Grand View proper, but she's since gone on. His dad had already passed. Time marches on for everyone.
Of course the man took me over to the maple.
Standing under the limbs of the maple the man rubbed the trunk of the big tree with affection. He looked back up through the branches. He told me this was a special tree; he and his family had planted it a long time ago in memory of his sister.
It seems his sister died as the result of a car accident when she was a young woman; it had been her wedding day and she and her new husband were leaving the celebration late in the night when it happened. She and her husband were about to start a life together; begin a family; they'd have a home, be in love and be happy. They didn't get to do that. This maple is her tree.
"Take care of this place," he said. Thinking back on it, I'm not sure the man was even talking to me.
Since we bought the house my wife and I have made some of our own changes to the property. We've added rooms to the home; we've put up new siding and a different roof. We've added barns and fencing. There are horses and chickens. There are children. In many ways the old farm is young again.
And the maple tree is a part of our family now. I love that maple tree.
Read more from Darrell Pendergrass at outtherewithdarrell.blogspot.com.