The majestic, old maple sits in front of the seventeenth century farmhouse at Woolman Hill Retreat Center in Deerfield, MA. I took the featured image you see here some fifteen years ago just as the su
n was rising over the hills beyond. This tree is powerful, it has a message, and I have been photographing it and meditating nearby it and watching children play beneath it on and off for over twenty-five years.
This tree is spiritually powerful, and sadly too, this grand old tree is slowly dying. The arborists have pruned and patched and cabled what they could to give it time but no one knows for sure how long it will be with us. Last month I stood at sunrise with my camera in the very same position as before and did not take the shot.
There are many living things we’d rather not outlive. And though I treasure the decades I have lived in and through and hope for more, a tree that’s lived two centuries-plus has had a good run too, no doubt. But we’ve talked, the tree and I, and still there are birds to house and dappled shade for passerbies and children playing underneath.
I’ve climbed this grand old maple many times to rescue stranded balls and Frisbees. I have also climbed to sit among its sprawling branches, to feel its strength until age, my own age, informed me that my climbing days were numbered. Still, for a time at least, I took pleasure in boosting children up the tree’s mammoth trunk to reach the lowest boughs so they could breathe in what the maple had to say. This year I watched younger staff help the young ones up the tree as I framed the scene and took the picture then set my camera down.
It was just a moment really, of reverence, of bittersweet right order, of life unfolding of youth climbing through the years, of strength receiving and receding and yet, of life aplenty, still.
Text and images by Kevin Lee