There is a tree at the corner of Baxter and Justus Post Rd. in Chesterfield, Missouri. I drove by the other day and felt very sad. For many years I had passed this corner where a magnificent oak tree stood over a small pond. Every trip I took on this path was highlighted with the anticipation of, once again, for the hundredth time, seeing this work of art shaped not by a mortal hand.
Often, I passed this corner with the intention of photographing the tree from many angles to capture its grandeur and beauty. Even when I had my camera with me, as I do most of the time, I never stopped. But I knew the tree would be patient and would wait for me. After all, it had been there for at least 200 years, long before the corner existed, before the homes and condos that were now its neighbors.
On this trip, performing the routine chores of life, I looked for the tree…but it was gone! In its place was a newly planted tree, maybe 15-20 feet tall, that caused me to feel sad. I was jolted into the realization that I had missed my chance to visit this living monument and capture it in photographs. I felt the loss in my chest, not just because of a missed opportunity, but the shock of loss without anticipation. I expected this tree to outlive me, yet it died un-expectantly.
I hoped above all hope that the tree had to come down because of unsustainable old age or disease. There would be no other reason, not even for so-called progress for it was in the perfect place and obviously saved during the advancing population. I wondered, did anyone else love this tree as I did? It seemed to be gone without ceremony. Had it been worthy of any mention in the local papers? Was there anyone who fought against its removal?
I know some who read this will think, hey, why so emotional over a tree? I’m not what you would call an active ‘tree-hugger’. While I consider the tree worthy of my respect and sadness, I’m sure there were other reasons for my sorrow. I think I knew unconsciously that this is a warning to me. A warning to not put off the loving things that need to be done, not to delay saying the things that need to be said, and to capture the moments that will define your life.
In many ways I already knew this lesson. I revel in my family and have so many photographs and videos of my children, and especially of my grandchildren, I am nearing the description of that nuisance with a camera! But in other ways, I have been guilty of misusing the moments of my life. I have often put off saying I am sorry. I have delayed certain adventures. I have not moved forward in some instances where mere nervousness or perhaps the fear of ridicule or embarrassment have stopped me.
I don’t have complete confidence that I am now changed, living every moment to the fullest and without regret. I will regress occasionally. But I do know that thoughts of that magnificent oak tree will help me come back to the realization that I should not waste a moment without purpose.
PS. A photo of this tree would have been the perfect complement to this story. If I had that photo, this story would not have been written. Maybe the tree is still speaking to me?