Monday, October 09, 2006

The not-so-old oak tree

I read somewhere that it takes at least 20 years for an oak tree to mature enough to produce acorns. Well, this tree produced plenty of them, just ask the neighborhood squirrels.

But despite this tree's maturity, there was something wrong with it. Its branches looked sparse and sickly with very little leaf cover, except for one branch that was thicker and bigger than the main stem of the tree, which looked dead. It was far from symmetrical, its healthy branches all congregating on one side.

We'd been nursing the tree for several years. We'd tried iron treatments, fertilizer, you name it. My gut says that when the previous owners of our house put in the current patio several years ago, it must have upset the tree's root structure, causing a slow decline in the tree.

It's just a tree, but it saddened me to make the decision to let it go. A pin oak is supposed to last 90-125 years. This one had logged no more than 27.

In my fiction writing, I have characters who view oak trees as sacred. A quick search of the Internet shows that oaks are considered sacred in both Celtic and Norse mythology.
From The most sacred tree of all was the Oak tree, which represented the axis mundi, the center of the world. The Celtic name for oak, daur, is the origin of the word door- the root of the oak was literally the doorway to the Otherworld, the realm of Fairy.

From Wikipedia: Thor's Oak was an ancient tree sacred to the Germanic tribe of the Chatti and one of the most important sacred sites of the non-Christian Germans.
Looking out at the backyard now, it seems so empty and barren. So big. I can't help but wonder if my dogs will consciously miss the tree. What obstacle will they chase around? What will Loki use as a pick to protect herself from Thor when he charges her? (No, the connection between Thor's Oak above and Thor our dog wasn't lost on me.)

We'll be planting at least two new trees in the yard by spring. A part of me wants one to be an oak. But mostly, I'll be happy just to have a tree again. And do I really want a doorway to the Fairy Otherworld in my backyard? I'll have to think on that one.

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