Mack Williams column: Tree rings

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 2, 2021

By Mack Williams

Recently, the tree which had fallen into my son Jeremy’s yard was cut up. The larger sections of the trunk were removed, leaving firewood-usable limbs, branches, along with twigs for fireplace kindling.

The larger cut sections of trunk were like the earthquake-broken column pieces of ancient Rome. The main stump was like some ancient growth point of the world, if not ancient, then preceding the lives of anyone I now know, except my mother-in-law Doris (94) and my sixth-grade teacher, Roselyn Misenheimer (91). By Jeremy’s count, the trunk had 89 rings.

Some of the tree’s growth rings were fat, and some were thin, like the cows in Pharoah’s dream related to Joseph.

An over three-feet-wide stump remained, almost three feet in height. A neighbor of mine had a similar stump shaved to the ground, resulting in a yard almost filled with shavings. I’m sure some of those shavings contained a few lines of growth, each growth-ring shaving like a tiny archaeological artifact removed from a dig site before it had properly been recorded as to its depth and location on the stringed grid.

I gazed at the rings on that tree stump next to Jeremy’s back yard. Since Jeremy had counted 89 rings, the tree’s advent had supposedly been in 1932, two years after my parents’ (Bernard Williams and Lorraine Hamlet) wedding. As I was born in 1951, my whole life was represented in the major parts of that tree timeline.

Following my “birth-ring,” were those representing my baptism, Confirmation, first day of school, father’s premature death (along with my premature bereavement) enjoying the snow with my brother Joe, dating my first girlfriend, first prom, first cigarette, college years, working years, my own young family years, late wife Diane’s premature death, my children Rachel and Jeremy becoming adults and married, and my retirement.

In those piled-up branches and twigs, I’m sure there are also growth rings which match the stump’s outer rings also representing the last year or so. On the ends of those twigs are, especially, a few buds whose growth was ended when the great tree was struck by lightning and fell. Those buds would most likely have produced a ring representing this future time (at least as far as the tree is concerned) in which I sit here and write this.

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