Last fall we said good-bye to our magnificent Horse Chestnut tree. For the past twenty-five years I have watched its sticky, reddish buds swell throughout April, then burst forth at the beginning of May in red-tinged white mounds standing up on the curved branches like candelabras. I know I have photographed the tree lifting its blossoms and large palmate leaves over the peak of the roof, but amazingly, I can’t find a single photo of the whole tree as I search my files. I do have a number of photos I took from the window by my desk of the squirrels and birds that found shelter in the tree.
I still catch myself looking out the window to see if a squirrel is poking his head out of the hole in the trunk or sunbathing on a branch.
When we moved here, we found an album of old photos, and this one shows our house circa 1941, with the Horse Chestnut standing tall over the roof the behind the house.
We also found this old painting, done in the fall of 1942.Unfortunately I can’t decipher the artist’s name. You can see the Horse Chestnut tree just to the left of the house (this is looking at the back of the house). The person who bought the house in 1941 (Dorothy Dunbar Bromley) put new siding and a new roof on, which is why it looks like a different house in this photo.
|Watercolor painted from my desk window|
As a project in a watercolor forum, we had a “Conker painting contest,” when I was just starting to get serious about art after years of homeschooling my children. Many of the forum members were British, and there they call horse chestnuts “conkers.” My tree provided an abundance of conkers to use as subjects, as I tried new watercolor techniques.
When PJ was visiting us in the spring a couple of years ago, she spent most of every day outside, sitting motionless for hours, watching the tree. She was watching for squirrels, but whether they were visible or not, she sat or lay down, never moving her eyes from the tree.
|How to Appreciate a Tree by PJ|
The wood of the Horse Chestnut is dense and hard, so my son Jonathan saved much of it to use in woodworking. For Christmas he made a checkerboard for my nephews Oliver and Felix.
Jonathan and Steve stacked the logs out by our stream, and I plan to do a watercolor of the woodpile. I miss my tree, but perhaps we will yet have ways to enjoy and cherish it in art and memory.