Lifestyle Travel

My favourite tree: Woods Hole, MA

Source: Jessica Edgar

In my town, there is a hill across from the bakery and the post office. On that hill, there is a great, old tree with hundreds of branches and roots bubbling up from the ground. It is the perfect climbing tree, with its trunk split low allowing easy access. The local kids each have their own story with this tree. It has seen many a fairy house in its nooks and crannies, many a parent holding their child up as they climb higher with each passing year. 

When the kids get old enough to climb to the top, they leave presents for the tree in the branches that touch the sky: an inflatable santa claus, a toy skeleton, part of a bike. Like the X at the end of a treasure map, kids weave their way through the labyrinth of branches, finding new ways to the top, each celebrating once they too can see the treasures. As they grip the swaying branches, the ocean opens up in front of them. Climbing to the top at sunset is particularly special, when there are just enough clouds to make the sunset interesting, with streaks of bright orange and the clear blue sky peeking through. 

Different groups of kids came and went, and when one group grew up, another would take its place. When enough time passed for a group of kids to have grandkids of their own, they would gather in groups to sit on the stone wall in front of the tree, just passing the time in that familiar place.

Like that old folk song about the branch on the tree and the tree in the hole and the hole in the ground, each kid that climbs its branches is connected to that ground.

Every summer, the town is overtaken by visitors. With their suitcases and large hats and sunscreen they speed through the town (literally and figuratively), satiating themselves with coffee and pastries served by the tree climbers. They pass by the tree unnoticed and head towards the ferry that takes them to an island where presidents vacation and celebrities get tanned. The last stop on their way to relaxation, they enter the small town tired and annoyed, and leave the exact same way, not noticing the life around them. 

But the town notices these travellers. The best place to notice them is from the tree on the hill. Always looking straight on to their destination, they never look up to see the tree with its full summer leaves and the small faces peering out behind them. 

My little sister and her friend made up a game: they would talk and whistle as people walked beneath them. Predictably, the people would stop, confused, and look around as they tried to place the source. Always focused on the uneven path beneath them, they never thought to look up into the tree above them, where two 10 year olds were laughing in overalls and pigtails.

Travellers are just the passers-by that come and go with the seasons, hell-bent towards their idyll. Take it from a girl who grew up in the last stop on the way to paradise: sometimes the most beautiful things aren’t where you expect them to be, but instead, in the nooks and crannies along the way. It seems like we all are moving on a linear path towards something, always chugging forward horizontally, as to move vertically would mean halting that forward motion. 

If you want to take my advice, the next time you pass by a large old tree, maybe stop for a moment and take a look up into its branches.  You might just find someone looking back down at you.