Was it a single acorn that created a shelter for the generations? Or was it a seedling planted a half century ago? Whatever the explanation, for generations a variety of families have relaxed in the shade of the giant oak tree on our point of land at Brant Lake. There are those who swing in a hammock attached to the tree. Little ones climb into the lofty branches and squirrels gather acorns for winter, hiding them in the nooks and crannies of the oak. This has been, and will be, a fulcrum for our home and, whenever a fierce wind blows from the north, we watch as the oak, situated precariously over the water, clings to the earth in an ongoing quest for survival.
But when I reflect on the tradition of our family oak I also consider the bond between our tree and an oak in a small town outside Boise, Idaho. My friend Bill told me the story of that oak planted by his parents many years ago, sometime after his ancestors migrated to the United States from Germany. As Bill relates the story, the family heirloom faced an uncertain future when his parents chose to move to a more accessible home. Bill’s mother insisted that she would not move unless the oak went with her—quite a challenge since the massive oak had expanded in all directions. However, Bill and his siblings obliged. The younger generation dug out the tree by hand and transplanted the aged oak to his parents new property. So the oak, reaching into the sky, and the family, earthbound, set off together.
The tree thrived for oaks have been known to live over 1000 years. In fact, the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest is 800 years old and, according to legend, gave shelter to Robin Hood!
Of course, the human life span is much briefer. Bill’s father died some years after he moved, yet he does not reside alone in the cemetery. Bill planted an acorn from the oak at his families’ home over his father’s grave and now that tree is fully grown, bringing life to death. Bill prunes the oak at the cemetery, and, in his retirement, uses the wood he prunes for his hobby of wood working. Among the first of his creations was a crib for a grandchild, a shelter for a life just beginning.
Trace the timeline. An elderly oak gives birth to a new creation, and from those branches a crib. A great grandfather, to a grandfather, to a father and a grandchild. Continuity made possible by a humble acorn. So life goes on.
As it does beneath the branches of our oak at Brant Lake.