We Will Remember You, Part 2
It is spring break week at Penn State, and campus is deserted. When I arrived on campus yesterday morning, there were almost no people about, only buildings and trees.
As I pulled onto one of the campus roads, I looked at a building standing there at the corner, and thought to myself: Hmm, how interesting - nothing but lines against the diffuse morning light. Only black and white would do. I did not want the distraction of color, only the spareness and purity of line, and shape, and shadow.
So I started taking pictures of many popular campus locations, and quite a few buildings, in black and white (monochrome camera setting). I liked how the first few turned out - it looked post-apocalyptic, or maybe like something outside of time. The pictures could have been taken today, or 50 years from now, or 50 years ago.
I realized when I got home last night that I hadn't taken a single black and white photo of Old Main or the elm tree that will be taken down this week.
Also, I admit I was a fascinated/horrified kind of curious. With such a big tree, how would they take it down without ruining other things - the Old Main building itself, the armillary sphere, the sundial? I didn't want to watch, but I couldn't help wanting to see. So today I returned to the tree, and the area near Old Main.
I snapped away, using every setting I could think of, just to HAVE it, you know; to have CAPTURED the tree forever somehow. As I did so, a gentleman approached me and told me I should get all the pictures now while I can - and we began to talk. I recognized him as the leader of the small group of hard-hatted men whom I had seen clustered around the tree at one point yesterday, speaking in low, ominous voices.
I got a sense immediately that he was a Man in Charge of the Trees. He explained that a huge crane will be brought in, and large pieces of the elm tree will be cut starting at the top, and lifted off via the crane. This work is scheduled for sometime in the coming two to three days; I doubt I'll be back to see it, but you never know.
I told him how sorry I was to see the tree go, how it's been there all my life. He said, "Yes, of course, we are all very sorry: but the tree is diseased, and unless we remove it, the disease will spread." He shook his head sadly, as did I. He probably even more sadly than I - as one previously charged with protecting it, it is now his responsibility to help arrange the tree's demise.
How absolutely unfair life can be. Sometimes life asks of those who love: Are you strong enough to do What Must Be Done, even if it breaks your heart?
He also shared a bit of sobering news. The other elm tree, the one at the left side of Old Main, is not in great shape either, and while they are hoping to keep it as long as possible, it may also need to be removed within the coming couple of years. And so the area around Old Main may look very different in a few years.
I share these several blips in honor of this beautiful old tree that has lived so long and seen so much.
I admit I do not know what happens to the soul of a tree when the tree dies. I've heard the streets of heaven will be paved with gold. But might they also be lined with trees?
One can only hope and pray they will be.
For more on the elm tree, see:
Tuesday 6 March 2012: We Will Remember You, Part 1
Friday 9 March 2012: Taking Down the Elm