Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Old Oak

I used to live on Bayview Street directly across from this oak tree. People who had grown up in Fairhope told me when they were kids growing up they would climb to one of the welcoming lower limbs and sit for hours and read. This came from at least two people of different generations, making the oak symbolize to me the mood of Fairhope of a former day, when children climbed trees to read and spent hours just exploring, playing, and dreaming. Marietta Johnson once said, "The little child should have much time for play, and even for dreaming. If one may not dream in childhood, when will time be found for this accomplishment?"

The oak came to evoke the heart of Fairhope itself to me--like a sturdy, comforting friend. That venerable tree had held growing children in its limbs when they still had time to read and to dream. I never passed it without feeling a nostalgia for its embrace even though I had never felt it. It is something I visit when I go back to Fairhope, just to scope out the neighborhood, just to confirm my hope that some good things don't change.
This woodcut, produced in the early 1920's by Wharton Esherick, looks like the same oak tree to me. Over the years it's had a limb or two pruned, and it has lost its Spanish moss, but it continues to grow and spread and be the best tree it can. I sent a copy of the top picture to one of the lecturers from the symposium and he says without a doubt it is the same tree. I hope we're both right, and that Esherick saw his own children climbing in it, and maybe lingering with a book in its sturdy branches. It is a remnant of the best of Fairhope. Wharton Esherick appears as a minor character in my novel That Was Tomorrow, set in 1921 in Fairhope. For more about my book, visit  my website.


Steve said...

That, Mary Lois... Made my day! Thank you so much. In Danvers, (old Salem Village) I attended the Great Oak School. The school remains, but the tree, its namesake, had to be removed several years ago. It was a legend of a tree, on a bit of a knoll, making it even more impressive. i was able to aquire a few board feet that I hope to carve and hand down to my nephew, who also went there (decades later).

jaques mullet said...

Well, I gotta go by and have a look at that tree. Fairhope has an law now that imposes $10K fine for tree cutting.....mmmmm. Across from the 'Captain's House', your house, there is a log house. The tree in the wood cut must be just north at corner St. James? Yet , it could be just south, or across
Morphy to the south. Gotta go see I guess.
For tree historians, Jackson's Oak in Montrose/Daphne has acclaim.
Next to my house is 'split oak'
with a trunk divided ages ago. A split large enough to ride a golf cart through.
It amazes me that hurricane winds do little to these massive trees, yet pines snap and pecans topple over. And of course, houses claim
severe damage or destruction.
My pal Denis Hermecz is a present day furniture/cabinet maker/ wood carver.Denis' work sort of resembles Eurick. It is nutso to me that some artists gain acclaim for the most part long after they die, while others, seeming more common in result, are marketed to the level of peer-possession envy.
(ML could go back to past blog posts about 'what is art'.)
As for me, I built a 7 foot art- glass gradfather clock using a pecan tree downed by hurricane Opal...one of a kind. Art is what it is.
Yep, today, I'll ride by to see the 'wood cut' tree wishing ML was in the sidecar for a thrill. It would also be a thrill to have ML in audience for our Chekhov plays that open this week at Theatre 98www.theatre98.org.

Mary Lois said...

To Jacques and all the other mullets: The tree is on North Bayview, on the bay side. You can't miss it.