But this Earth Day was unique, as locals gathered on Challenger Drive to say goodbye to an enormous copper beech tree that has offered shade and comfort for 150 years. Aborists have determined the tree is beyond saving, and this massive old friend will be cut down soon for safety.
About 40 people gathered as Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution leader Susan Avery said a few words about how hard it is to say goodbye to a tree of this stature. Local theologian Deborah Warner spoke about nature, then read a moving Mary Oliver poem that began, “When I am among the trees, especially the willows and the honey locust, equally the beech, the oaks and the pines, they give off such hints of gladness, I would almost say they save me, and daily.” (From “Thirst, poems by Mary Oliver,” Beacon Press, 2006)
Susan Witzell, a local historian, shared anecdotes about Joseph Story Fay who once owned this property and planted these seedlings back when Woods Hole had been cleared for timber and was mostly meadow used for sheep. Fay was devoted to planting trees, and along with his gardener Michael Walsh, is responsible for much of the forest that now dominates this end of Falmouth.
In closing, a group gathered around the base for an actual tree hug. It was such a warm spring day, with long shadows drifting across the impossibly green spring grass. Susan Avery spoke of planting a new copper beech in the same spot and emotions ran high thinking about this symbolic new era in Woods Hole, a time for saplings, spring and new beginnings.