Yesterday, I went for my usual walk through the woods. I took the more scenic path this time, as it gets too buggy and overgrown during the summer for me to comfortably pass.
But this time of year, some of the weeds have died back, the crunch of leaves is underfoot, keeping some of the mud at bay, and the insects have thinned out.
So I took the road less traveled onto the ridge above the creek.
And that’s where I discovered the fallen sentinel.
This old oak had been standing at the top of the ridge, majestically leaning out over the cliff for as many years as I can remember hiking here. Its trunk is at least three feet in diameter.
The last time I passed through it was early spring, before the foliage filled out, while the creek gurgled its way around the bend. At the time, I could see the tree was getting too close to the edge. Or the edge was eroding too close to the tree. I gingerly stepped close and patted the bark of the tree. “My friend..this does not look great. But the cliff won’t erode that fast. I imagine it will be at least a few years.”
I went on my way.
The torrential rains of this past spring that prevented our farmers from getting their crops in the ground also took a toll on the ridge. As I wound my way through yesterday, I stopped in my tracks. The landmarks had changed, my bearings were rattled.
The earth had shifted.
And an old friend had tumbled.
I surveyed the area where the tree once stood. Everything had changed. Was it here? Was it slightly further back? I could no longer even recognize the place where it had once stood. It must have been months. It must have been the downpours. It must have been inevitable.
Still, I found myself sending a little blessing. And immediately wondering it the forest preserve would allow it to stay there, damming the creek.
I bowed my head and turned on the path to continue my journey. As I left I saw chipmunks scurrying and playing along the trunk and branches of the tree below.
Ever adjusting. Ever changing. Exploring a new landscape.