This page is dedicated to my mother, who died peacefully in her sleep with my father by her side on March
28, 2009. She was a wonderful eighty six years old. I can truly say that she faced her death with calm
dignity, not wanting to say good-bye, but knowing that she had lived a full and loved life. I spent a few days
with her just before she died and we talked and laughed about so many things, but still, there are so many
more things that I wish we had the time to talk about. I miss her so very much, but I also feel so very thankful
to be her daughter. Much of her lives on in me, and my brother, and our seven children. And when I stand
outside and see the beauty of Straight Creek, I know that her love is all around.
My brother, Thomas, lives with his wife on their fifteen acre farm outside of Burlington, Vermont. He wrote the
following essay after his last visit with our mother towards the end of March. Perhaps it is no wonder that we
really are so very much alike. No doubt about it. We are our mother's children.
"The Tree was old. Five feet in diameter at the base, its branches reached up well over one hundred and
twenty feet. We have been calling it the Grandfather tree for twenty years. As we walked towards it we saw
that half of it was gone. The eastern branch separated from the main trunk thirty feet up. It had come
crashing down the day before. The force had opened a five inch split in the main trunk effectively splitting it
in two. The gap continued right down into the ground and into the snow and ice. Part of the branch lay in
the stream seventy feet away. Shattered fragments were piled near the base. The western trunk still stood,
alive and about to bud out with the coming of spring.
As we walked around the ruin we started to pick up some of the pieces. The inner trunk had rotted to dust
and the homes of countless insects. Due to differences in sap or hardness, the insects and fungus had left
some of the wood untouched. These pieces were beautiful. Each one had delicate texture and subtle
changes in color. They were suitable to hang in an art gallery. We picked them up and held them in
One of the fragments had been where an eight inch branch had separated from a larger mass of wood. The
smaller branch had totally rotted away. Most of the larger branch had as well. What was left was a fluid
shape of wood that curved around an open void. Held one way it resembled a flame shape. Turned over, it
almost asked a question, marked in wood. On one side it was clean wood rent from its bark. Its surface was
where the tree had tried for many years to heal the wound. It was strong and solid. On the other side it had
been chewed by insects down to almost fresh grain. The marking of the insects was delicate and almost
resembled a code, a pattern with meaning that I could not quite understand.
We inspected the other pieces were inspected with reverence and awe. Each was beauty in its natural state.
Each spoke of the growth of the tree. Each told the story of the tree’s life, and finally, of its death. Some
were shattered. Some were great slabs of bark, inches thick and as large as a man. Others were giant
Earlier in the day I had hugged my mother goodbye. She had kissed me for the last time. Her health is
failing. She is ready to stop the struggle. She is ready to let go. In my mind my mother and the tree are
letting go together. There is beauty and the story of life in both. They both return to the soil of this earth.
They both leave behind memories of growth; spring and fall, winter and summer.
Thousands of trees have stood before in that valley. Hundreds of men have walked upon its soil and
wondered at its beauty. We all, both trees and human kind, are only passing through this valley of time. We
all borrow our atoms from the earth. We all return them in the end.
It is only the memory of beauty and the cycle of life that live on after we die. Half of the tree still stands, its
branches almost ready to green with leaf. Many of its seedlings grow in the valley. The fallen part will be
home to chipmunks and insects before returning to the soil. This is natures way.
My mother has children and grandchildren. She has touched the lives of many. The wisdom of her love will
continue. The growth ring patterns of her life.
With the coming of the spring the ground by the stream turns to mud. The once frozen trunk of the tree in
thawing, had failed to support its enormous weight against the forces of gravity and time. We had found
beauty and joy in what was left.
I will give a piece of the tree to my father and sister. The melting snow swells the torrent of the stream that
flows through the valley. I will walk down to the tree and remember my mother. My tears will join the flow of
the melting snow. I cry for the joy and beauty that were my mother’s life."
Straight Creek Valley Farm