She left this life with true Quaker grace. On a warm sunny autumn Tuesday, our 350 year old white oak gracefully and quietly lay down. Not a great noisy exit – a gentle descent in the only direction that would avoid excessive harm to any other being.
This White Oak had been gracing the front yard of London Grove Monthly Meeting, Kennett Square, PA since the late 1680s. It is believed she was present when William Penn, the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania, first visited this meeting.
The descendants of families who were part of the founding and early 1700s meetings still belong to London Grove. The tree was present for the weddings of many of their ancestors, and stood through the change from horses to cars and agrarian to contemporary culture. She was there, even as the buildings and culture of the area changed around her.
A Champion Tree – And A Friend
Our oak was a champion tree, the largest white oak in Chester County, written about in Quaker lore, social histories and arborist articles over the centuries. More than that, she was an integral part of the area’s community life. Kindergarteners played around her base, couples were married beneath the tree’s strong limbs, individuals came to share their hopes, dreams, sorrows and secrets.
This past week, many came from the surrounding community to pay their respects. They came in silence, some with tears in their eyes, some bringing their children to say a last good-bye.
Our meeting is now going through a discerning process as to what is the most appropriate way we can honor the life of our friend. It is a thoughtful process built on consensus and on gratitude for the significant blessings this loving protective tree brought to so many.
Her Abundant Spirit
Shown right is a close up of the heart of the tree, when she was vibrantly alive. If you look closely, you can see an angel, with wings, on the right side protecting an earthly being on the left.
The Interface Between Spirit and Matter
Our tree died of root rot, an issue with white oaks, and we humans worked with Longwood Gardens and many other arborists to keep her alive. She and her nature being colleagues worked from their side to keep her alive. Shown left is her root system, on display when she leaned over. There are images of so many types of beings seen here – address markers attesting to the great love all dimensions felt for this gentle, noble tree. They were working, at the weakest intersecting part of the tree, to keep her alive and healthy.