I haven’t known the massive oak tree that stands near the library at Framingham State University long enough to give it a name, as I did with “Old Silver,” the multi-trunked silver maple that used to stand on the corner of Fisk Quad at Keene State. But the first time I visited Framingham State, I stopped in my tracks when I saw the massive oak that stands on the grassy slope between May Hall and Whittemore Library: such a large, sprawling, and admirably craggy fellow!
Because Massive Oak’s branches sprawl so wide, it’s difficult to fit him into a single photographic frame, so before this past Thursday I had only two pictures of him, both taken this past November, when a friend and I held an informal writing retreat on campus. When we arrived at Framingham State on that November day, my writing partner remarked how pretty the campus was, and since we were walking past Massive Oak at the time, I assumed she was commenting on how wonderful it is to teach on a campus with large, mature trees on it: craggy characters who refuse to be contained in a single photographic frame, deciding instead to spread into every inch of available space.
Because Massive Oak is both large and sprawling, taking up a large area of prime campus real estate, my heart sank on Thursday morning when I saw his huge trunk circled with pink utility tape. By Thursday afternoon, others had noticed the tape and drew the natural conclusion: Massive Oak is marked for removal.
On Friday–the Ides of March–an email confirmed our worst suspicions: trees wrapped in pink tape will be removed, trees wrapped in orange tape will be spared, and trees wrapped in both pink and orange tape will be transplanted, all to make way for a new Science Building that is planned for the site.
As much as my inner-Edward Abbey immediately considered an act of eco-terrorist sabotage–how simple it would be, I thought, to switch pink tape with orange, or to yarn bomb the whole damn tree–I’m old enough to know better. Massive Oak is too large and gangling a fellow to coexist with a sprawling new science building: new buildings prefer small, easily-contained trees, not a craggy behemoth whose roots and memory both reach deep.
Tree-removal is scheduled to begin soon after graduation in May, which means I and other tree-appreciators have the rest of the semester to take pictures, rest in the shade, and otherwise enjoy Massive Oak while he’s with us. We’re all destined to die eventually, and a terminal diagnosis–death with a date–reminds us to appreciate time with trees we might otherwise walk right past.