On Friday, Tracy planted the ginkgo tree purchased in memory of Fr. Bob. For those who are not familiar with ginkgo trees, they are considered to be living fossils, with the earliest leaf fossils dating from 270 million years ago. The trees were rediscovered in 1691 in China and were brought to this country in the late 1700s. The seeds and unique, fan-shaped leaves have been (and are still today) used in medicine throughout the world.
After the tree was planted and Tracy gave it a good drink of water, Tracy and Marge lifted the protective cage that JustBob crafted and set it into place around the bambini tree. The tree is only about 4’ tall right now, but should grow to be 50’ at maturity. Tracy commented that neither he nor Marge would be here to see it reach that height, and that is likely true. But that is OK, because we get to enjoy the shade and beauty of trees planted by others, and in that sense we are paying it forward by planting this tree. Ginkgo trees can live as long as 3,000 years; if this little tree lives that long, a lot of generations can enjoy the shade of this now 4’ tree.
On Sunday, we experienced the other end of a tree’s life cycle. JustBob and his crew cut down two trees by the west property line, one on each side of the cloister wall. The trees were either dead or dying, and Bob feared that a storm would knock them down and damage the cloister wall in the process. We do not know if the trees were planted intentionally by friars or accidentally by critters, but the latter seems the more likely case given their proximity to the wall. The trees were taken down without incident (although there were reports of a close call or two), and the wall remains intact. And even though we will no longer enjoy the beauty and shade of these two trees on the grounds, we look forward to enjoying the beauty and warmth of their energy when they become firewood for the fireplaces next winter.
As if the shade, beauty and firewood these trees provide us were not enough, trees provide something even more fundamental. Trees and people need each other to exist. Trees (and all plants) inhale the carbon dioxide people (and all animals) exhale, and we inhale the oxygen that trees exhale. We need each other.
For the air we breathe, the shade we need, the autumn beauty we enjoy, the winter firewood we use, and all the gifts trees offer us, we say Deo Gratias!