Visiting Grandfather Tree

Cottonwood tree lies in a field where it fell.

Huge cottonwood tree that once stood tall now lies on the ground where it fell.

Window box containing pieces of a spruce tree that fell down

Window box with pieces of a spruce tree

At the house where I used to live north of Aztec, New Mexico, there stood a huge cottonwood tree at the edge of the irrigation ditch that ran through our rural property. I called it Grandfather Tree. It was scarred with a long-ago lightning strike. Some of its branches had died and fallen off. Others still clung to the tree. Many birds, from eagles to doves, perched there.

I loved that tree and visited it often. It felt like a bond formed between us. I sometimes prayed that it would have whatever it needed to survive well for many more years.

I sold that property in 2017 and moved to the nearby city of Farmington, NM, but I never forgot the cottonwood. Sometimes I drove the 12 miles from my new house to see how well it was doing.

In January of this year when I drove by the tree, it no longer stood tall with its branches stretched high. It had been knocked down by the irrigation ditch rider, who thought it was hollow and unsafe to remain standing.

I felt devastated. My old friend was gone. I was sad and a little upset with the ditch rider for knocking down the tree I had come to love. For a long time, I didn’t know what to do with my sadness. Then this week I came up with an idea.

I telephoned a couple named Bob and Bonnie who live two houses down from where I used to live. I asked if one of them would come with me to visit Grandfather Tree. I didn’t feel that I could just walk onto the property, because it didn’t belong to me anymore. Bob agreed to come with me. He even called the neighbor who lives next door to the Grandfather Tree property and asked if he would keep his dog secured so it wouldn’t roam around and try to bite us.

When Bob and I visited Grandfather Tree, I brought four small cardboard boxes. I wanted to collect some of the bark from the tree. Maybe I could make something out of those pieces to help me remember the tree.

Years ago, at our church camp a huge spruce tree that was a few hundred years old fell over. Thankfully, no one was at camp when it happened. Later at a weekend women’s retreat at the camp, one lady led a workshop in which we gathered pieces of the fallen tree and used them and craft items to create a window box. We took our completed window boxes home as a reminder of the tree we all loved so much.

I decided I could make something out of wood from the cottonwood. I probably won’t make a window box, but I will make something to remind me of my tree friend. Just going to Grandfather Tree and collecting the wood helped me to feel better. What would we do without neighbor friends who help us when we need it?

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