A Tribute to Our Tree - Paying Homage to a Gentle Giant

The tree in the middle of our school has come down. Here since the beginning, our tree has been like a beacon, somehow showing us and the families that know us just what we’re about. Now that the arborist has been called in to lop it off, it’s with bittersweet beatings in my heart that I recall all it has stood for.

It may seem an odd thing to send a tribute to a tree. But I hope not, in this day and age. As we come to know more about these gentle giants of the plant world, we’re learning that trees talk, are part of communities and that we need them far more than we thought. This is true of the tree that has been the centre around which much life at Swallows and Amazons has swelled. As the school has grown from strength to strength, so did our wonderful tree. Initially, the tree provided us with shade and shelter. It was a great place to test out climbing skills. We built a treehouse around it. And then we created a stage that skirted its trunk – the perfect place for performances. Eventually, we had to deter playing on the tree or risk some broken limbs (the children’s and possibly the tree’s as well!). But just like in Shel Silverstein’s wonderful book The Giving Tree, it still gave us so much and the children continued to play underneath its branches. 

There’s no noise when a tree is cut down to die. Apart from the machines doing the cutting of course. But the tree itself goes quietly. There’s no funeral, no one to write an obituary. And it makes you wonder if anyone will miss it or remember it existed. Did it even matter now that it's not there? Well, I’m reassured by all of our children that it does!

At school, they have been so curious about what has happened to the tree, why did it have to leave, where is it going, and will we be getting another one? The answer to the last question is “Yes, we will.” In fact, the children will be part of the whole process; from choosing which type of tree to adding the fertilizer and soil to stabilise it and make it grow. IN case you are wondering, the children chose Lagerstroemia speciosa to plant in memory of our treehouse tree. The wonderful tree that stood and watched sentinel over our comings and going for so many years will not be forgotten and is teaching us just as much about the life cycle now that it has gone as when it was here. Symbols are important things to humans. We learn to put a lot of store in them from a young age. And our tree seemed to symbolise Community. A place of gathering. Protection. Purpose. In memory of the Swallows and Amazons tree, we will continue its work.

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