Tree Stories Submitted by Yale staff Members in Honor of Arbor Day – May 2022
Daphne Klemme, Physics
When my sister and I were growing up outside Miami, FL we had a tree in the front yard that had areas where the branches formed nest-like areas. We would play pretend in that tree all the time either being birds, or lost children, living in the tree and sleeping in the nests. It was a very comforting tree.
Kathleen Sherrill, Office of the Provost
It’s April 30 again. In 2004, I had spent several days the week before sitting with my mother in a nursing home as she was gradually dying. She struggled to let go, and I knew she wouldn’t die with me in the room. On April 29, our family priest shooed me away and had a private moment with her, saying that she should spend the month of May in heaven with her beloved husband, Frank. As I was driving to the nursing home the morning of April 30, the clouds parted and a brilliant sun shone down. I thought to myself, “she’s gone.” As I walked in, the front desk attendant stopped me to tell me that she had passed, and I told her that I knew that. A dear friend of mine planted a dogwood tree in our front yard in my mother’s memory. As I reflect each year on missing my mother, it gives me comfort to look out our front window and see that the buds are appearing on my “Mom’s tree”, reminding me of spring, new life, and the beautiful month of May arriving the next day.
Regina Johnson, Payroll
2 trees, 1 little girl…Mimosa and Weeping Willow in my parents’ front yard in Northford. As a little girl I would play under the willow for hours pretending I was a fairy princess, loving the light filtering through. Then I would take the mimosa puffs and dab them over my face like I was putting on make-up. The scent of the mimosa is something I will always remember and to this day, I love “weeping” trees. I cried when those trees had to be removed.
Deborah Pallock, Facilities
For my ten-year service anniversary, I chose to have tree planted on campus. I visit the tree often and see how it has grown thanks to Yale’s Grounds Maintenance Department. Attached are two photos, one from August 2019 and one from May 2022.
Patti Cavaliere, General Internal Medicine
Most every weekend I met my friend, Kathy, at Lake Chamberlain in Bethany where we rode our horses and caught up on life. I looked forward to winding past the massive trunk of an old tree, located in the darkness of the woods. It must be much older than I am. One of the lower branches is broken, but in the springtime, fluorescent green moss covers the bark. Sunlight filtering rays through the surrounding canopy of leaves creates a magical effect on the woods below, but this tree stands out among all the others. If that tree were human, it would be a body builder with a broad chest, muscular biceps outstretched as if lifting twice its weight. Each time I saw it, I never took its soothing sight for granted. I secretly named it “The Disney Tree,” because it reminds me of childhood dreams.
Deborah Pallock, Facilities
Soon after I was married my father-in-law gave my husband and I a seedling from his red maple tree in Monroe, CT. He did the same for his older son, and now he is doing it for his grandchildren that are getting married. Over 25 years later the seedling that he gave us has grown into a beautiful tree. The colors in the fall are really spectacular. I have attached a picture taken in November of 2021.
Karina Linehan, Yale School of Medicine Pediatrics
When I was a child, there was a Japanese maple tree in front of our house. The branches went all the way to the ground and formed a space underneath the tree that was like a cave. I used to go under that tree almost every day in the summer to read or play. It was my favorite spot as a kid.
Veronica Korn, Psychological Medicine
We took refuge from the constant Scottish drizzle under a bower of boxwood trees. A placard beneath the trees said Mary Queen of Scots and her mother had planted them in 1547 while in hiding from King Henry VIII. My pen pal of 37 years–my dearest, oldest friend–and I were in Scotland on one of our “mad holidays” as she would say. Over the years we had left behind husbands and careers to vacation between our respective homes in America and Ireland. Shivering under the bower, we gazed up towards the tall boxwoods. “Do you really believe these trees are five centuries old?” I asked her. “Look at them,” she said, “look how strong and stable they are! They’ve intertwined and are now almost a forest of their own.” We spent our last night in Scotland planning our next trip and said goodbye to each other the next morning, still giddy while reminiscing over funny moments from the last few days. The next year she let me know that she and her husband had decided to become later in life parents; our trip would have to wait. Two years now passed, and the world shut down. Her business suffered greatly just as she had started a family. I became ill with the virus and took months to recover. The lockdown led to more frequent FaceTimes and emails between us. I reveled in her new role as a mother and joyfully watched her twin girls grow. So much had changed in our lives, just like the leaves on a tree change. And then it occurred to me how very much we are like those boxwoods we stood beneath on a cold and wet April afternoon; firmly rooted in friendship and secure enough to withstand any of life’s storms.
Siobhan Thompson, Yale School of Public Health
There’s a tree in my neighborhood that’s made of wood, is situated near the ocean’s edge on Long Island Sound but does not require water to survive. This tree is not planted in the ground, yet it grows daily and blooms all year round. So many Yale professionals worked to create this tree back in the 1960’s and 70’s, many of whom have passed before seeing it grow into what it is today. People who first encounter this tree may not notice its beauty because they are sad, perhaps even fearful. But sure enough, when families, friends, and animals come together around this tree they give the best of themselves. This tree consoles the sick and the dying. It is a truly precious Connecticut treasure. This tree gives out hugs and has touched millions of people. It cultivates knowledge among the young and old, - volunteerism is its secret ingredient. The tree carved on the door of the Connecticut Hospice is a timeless wonder. I can’t think of a tree that has touched more lives. Our world is a better place because of this tree.
Andrea Porto, Yale Printing & Publishing Services
This tree actually broke and started to fall over 40 years ago. my dad nursed it back to health…well to some degree as you can see…it grew sideways and up and has been that way flowering beautiful white flowers for many, many years. My neighbor who fell off a church steeple many years ago made a birdhouse to hang on this tree and its been there so long the rope is embedded into the tree. I love looking at this tree. it makes me think of my dad.
Julienne Hadley, Internal Communications
Some of my fondest memories as a child include taking family walks to the Branford Green, which was a stone’s throw from my childhood home. I loved observing the trees in bloom near John B. Sliney Elementary each spring and collecting chestnuts as they dropped along Main Street each fall. Now, whenever I see those flowers or find a chestnut on the ground, I’m reminded of those special walks with my family.
Christine Centola, Internal Medicine
As I was walking home from my friend’s house, I noticed it. It was a tree, gray in color, full of large green leaves that had points on them. I stared at it, not really sure why, as I had walked by this tree before, countless times. It was across the street from another friend’s house, and I had played in that yard with many other neighborhood kids.
It stood behind a silver stone and tanned concrete wall that marked the far corner of the yard it grew in. The wall curved upwards, and it met a taller square pillar that hid the bulk of the trunk. I jumped up on the wall and walked up the curve, bending over and steadying myself with my hands as I strode up to the top of the pillar. From there I surveyed the area and the tree. The bark was smooth, no ridges, knots or furrows present. I ran my hand across the largest of the branches that grew horizontally and was about as high as my chest. I looked around cautiously, after all I was trespassing. The branch was sturdy, and I put both hands, my fingers wide open on the top of the limb and I pushed down and jumped up. As I landed on the column, I said to myself I can jump up and on it! I mimicked the same jump and when my arms were straight, elbows locked I leaned forward. I slid over the branch and as I did, I lifted my right leg and threw it over the branch. I was on the tree and was sitting there with my legs dangling and steadying myself with my hands. I looked up, branches, twigs and leaves with a bit of daylight peeking through was what I saw. Now to get up a bit higher. I quickly realized I was facing the wrong way. The trunk was behind me. I leaned down, my own trunk now lying on the branch, flew my leg back over and prayed I would land on the wall. Whew! Second try now with my left leg going over. I shimmied forward so I was close to the trunk then grabbed a branch on my left above me and pulled up. I was standing tall. It was easier than I thought. This tree had branches in all the right places that I was able to grab a branch on my right, lift a leg on another to my left and again until I was halfway up the tree. I was laughing in victory. I felt incredibly accomplished.
My friend from across the street saw me and said “hey, what are you doing”? I’m climbing the tree, come on up” I yelled back. That tree became a staple in the neighborhood. We climbed and played around it for hours despite the repeated warnings from the owner. We ran down scattered away only to come back later. Of course we carved the obligatory initials and symbols in the tree to mark our presence for eternity. I felt that tree was mine, I loved being in it. It was protective. Some of the best times was when I was by myself, as far up as I could go, sitting on a branch steadied by the trunk. If you were silent no one knew you were there I could daydream and be in paradise.
Years later when visiting my parents, I drove by and to my horror the branch that lifted you up was cut off. I stopped the car, rolled the window down and just stared at the scab that once held the limb. I was in disbelief, the shock hit. I was sad, hurt that my tree suffered. I sat there for a bit and recalled the wonderful memories that tree, my tree gave me and so many others. The meaning of bittersweet.