A white ash, otherwise known as the Fraxus Americana is native to North America. Famous for being used in the notorious Louisville Slugger baseball bat, the white ash is a staple of American plant life. A lone white ash stands proudly on the west side of Morgan Field towering over the dormitory as it displays the true power of nature over man. I was first graced with the presence of this mastodon of a tree on September 7th 2015. As the highly qualified arborist explained all of the tree’s special qualities in his Carharts and forest-green Dickinson polo shirt, my eyes began to follow the bark up the trunk and into the vast greenery above.
“Ash Ketchum” I thought to myself as I studied my soon to be wildlife companion. Growing up I had only known one person to ever have the name “Ash,” and he just so happened to be the main character of my favorite cartoon, Pokemon. He would tell people that he, “wanted to be the very best, like no one ever had.” After touring around the immense and diverse plethora of trees on Dickinson’s campus, and seeing 15 other trees that were adequate, I laid eyes on Ash and new immediately that he in fact is the best, like no tree ever was.
Ash is about 60 feet tall and has a diameter at the base of his trunk of about two feet. His species is said to live up to 200 years! I wonder about the things he must have seen through all of his years. I stare from a distance and see that he has many more leaves and branches on his westward facing tangent. I cannot help but think that there must be a scientific explanation for this phenomenon. I walk up close and notice the moss around the roots that snake their way into the ground. Thick ridges weave through each other like knots as they travel up the trunk creating a thick exterior that gives Ash a scaly exterior.
I move closer still and see a small silver disc nailed into Ash’s bark inscribed with the number “253.” Who are the 252 others that came before him? On the other side, a metal wire twists and turns up the bark, and I heard the arborist mention something about a lightning rod used to attract electric currents and send them into the ground. Thinking about the weeks to come, I anticipated the memories that Ash and I will share together. As we travel through the seasons together hopefully we can “Ketchum all!”
Being from New Hampshire it was always a joke between my friends and I that while other kids from cities were out partying, we had parties with trees, (since we have so many of them). In all honesty however trees are something that I have always taken for granted. As a child, The Giving Tree and The Lorax were part of my upbringing. Reading those stories along side The Man Who Planted Trees in an academic setting as a college student opens my eyes to the sacred nature of our planet’s forests, and brings out fond memories from childhood.
The house that I spent the first five years of my life in was a big, beautiful, red house across the street from a golf course in central Massachusetts. We called it “the red house” logically. We had a natural growing blueberry patch in our backyard, and a series of trails leading into the woods. I spent most of my time on these trails when the weather permitted it. My brother and I built forts and had a swing and even a seesaw. My father also had a close relationship with this part of our property. He loved reading books in the nicely shaded woods, and took an interest to building abstract sculptures out of the random objects of nature that he came across. His masterpiece was the bouquet of flowers that he planted in an old toilette.
My brother and I cried the day that we moved out of that house. My mother took a picture of the both of us together in my brother’s favorite climbing tree, tears filling our eyes. The amazing thing about this house was that so much of our entertainment came from the trees. We had an oasis in the woods that was an escape from the real world, which at that point in our lives was not even that “real” yet.
Seemingly mile-high branches scattered with green leaves and pine needles gave us a roof for our imaginations to run wild inside. Not only did our swing hang from an actual tree branch, but the seat itself was made out of wood as well. Our secret fort was built from wooden boards that were leaned up against the trunk of one of the largest trees on our property. Our wooden seesaw could rotate at the fulcrum, which lead to hours of precarious fun. The Giving Tree is just a children’s story about some made up tree that is uncharacteristically selfless, but that story is truer than I had ever considered.
Like the child in the story, I took and took from its plethora of resources without thinking that there may be a consequence down the road. Fortunately I never cleaned out a tree of all that it had to offer, or at least I hope I didn’t. I had the privilege of growing up surrounded by trees, and while I may have envied those who were out having parties I know now that there is nothing more precious than the earth’s natural beauty.