By Jacqui Jill

In a quiet neighborhood, in a not-so-different town, a grandfather told his grandson a story that he would always remember as he grew. The six-year-old possessed an unusual curiosity for everything and everyone entering his world. The grandfather had lived a robust life and now, at almost 90, he frequently reflected on his life’s moments, more than eager to share stories to spark his grandson’s keen fascination.

A cool breeze drifted through the spring green leaves of a delicate mountain ash tree in the family backyard. An occasional chirping call of mockingbirds and trills of chickadees blended through the colors of the late morning.

In the next yard, an immense oak tree stretched to 40 maybe 50 feet tall. Its branches weaved through other tree branches in a natural, harmonious pattern as grandfather began his story.

          A young man planted an ash tree many years ago. It was young and frail, so the man created a strong stake with secure ties on all of its sides assuring the tree would grow straight and tall to give much-needed shade in the backyard. An oak tree next door started also as a sapling, but it grew strong naturally.

          Grandpa, where did the oak come from? The boy’s voice raised.

          Well, it could have grown naturally from an acorn fallen from a nearby tree or transported by a wandering squirrel. It hadn’t been intentionally planted, like the ash. The boy’s imagination widened his eyes, eager to hear the rest of grandfather’s story.

          The grand oak grew faster and stronger than the delicate ash tree. The young man wasn’t too happy because the oak’s branches started to drape over onto his property. But the oak tree just kept on growing and, along with the ash, their branches together would give more shade into both yards, cooling everything and everyone during hot summers. Their elegant branches spread like a pear green satin canopy for all to enjoy. Then one day, the young man moved away and another man with unbending ways moved in.  He wanted everything different, the house, the yard, the trees, and whatever grew naturally. Branches that dared across his property line were quickly buzz-sawed away and the filtered sun, now without branches as a soft shield, directly scorched the cool, soft grass to crisp brown.

The young boy smoothed the cool, soft grass below him with his little hand.  It got brown…not like our grass, Grandpa!

          No, not at all like our grass! The ash tree grew bigger and tried its best to fill out the space left by the missing oak branches. But no! Instead of the thick cover that once protected the year, the ash limbs stretched thin, straggly, trying hard to fill the emptiness of the missing oak limbs.

           Years passed. The ash still tried to reach every year, edging closer to its friend the oak. Then, one year, just under the spot where the oak branches had been slashed, other new shoots appeared. In a short time, several branches reached back across the fence, more branches, like arms trying to hug its old friend, the ash tree. Today, you see them again together. They’ve grown closer, each one expanding in its own majesty, unique, yet stretching to brush each others’ leaves with their friendly embrace, giving shade to everyone who welcomes them in all yards where these trees have extended their reach.

The child shifted his glistening eyes upward towards his grandfather and then farther up into the dancing green leaves as a big smile sprouted. OUR trees are hugging, too, Grandpa! Even across the fences!

Sharing space and time with other elements of creation requires a respectful understanding of our own place in relation to all others in our environment. Boundaries are sometimes natural, but many are contrived conventions which Nature in her honor refuses to recognize. If we were to heed the more symbiotic advice from Nature’s ways, we might find that Her embrace fulfills much more purpose than strict adherence to our ideas of property lines.


Originally published in The Bethpage Tribune 6/1/2012