The swingset oak is forty years old, taller than our maple, cedars, even its pin oak siblings. Mr. and Mrs. Adams planted it when our neighborhood was still a field and Mom was still a kid who ran through it.
Early last fall, the tree started browning— far too early. By November, it was naked and stood that way all winter. We called an arborist, watching it give up its leaves while the pin oaks were still green.
“If it’s oak wilt, there isn’t much you can do.”
He told us to wait out the winter, see if it came back in spring. We did wait, and watched, and worried. Each time Mom worked at the kitchen sink, she craned to see up and out to the treetop, not really looking for life, but for no more signs of death. We didn’t like the thought of losing a good, old friend.
March came, the maples and pin oaks budded, and on my way to the pond or greenhouse I would stop under the swingset oak, hook a branch with my finger, and squint at it.
There were buds.
We took a little trip last week and stayed in a condo bordered by crabapples and redbuds. We’d left our yard an awkward assortment of skeleton trees, pale grass, and yellow blooms, but came home to spring on every twig and limb.
I poured my coffee at the sink this morning and looked out to see light on the leaves, like daubs of green watercolor on a pen outline. The swingset oak came back.
It isn’t in perfect health. There’s far more growth on the other oaks. But resurrection is always a good sign.