By George Ambrose (Lansdowne, PA)
It was not the Painter brothers’ habit to fell storm-damaged trees—unless they posed a danger. The old beech had seen many things before the severe summer storm both struck it with lightening and later blew it over, not down, but over. It arched across the nearby creek and its branches served as props, that kept it from falling.
The brothers kept an eye on it as they worked their farmstead. Interesting things happened around the old beech. Flowers , that were found no where else on the property, bloomed beside it in the Spring. After rains, “fairy rings” of mushrooms sprouted there too. And something was always nesting in the gnarled branches and even in the partially exposed roots. Mice, birds, squirrels, a weasel, and woodpeckers all lived there. It was always home to some creature.
Some years passed, and the old tree stopped putting out leaves. But it didn’t fall.The brothers thought of this tree as a friend, calling it “the old man.” They even saw what resembled a face in its weathered bark after the storm blew it over. They would greet it as they passed: “Good morning, old man!”
Finally, after many years, because its branches could not support its weight, the tree did fall. Because the upper parts were now blocking the creek, it had to be cut and moved. The now-exposed roots and bottom trunk were too large and posed no danger, so they were left where they were. (You can still see it near the Spring House.)
As for the rest, the brothers decided to give it “a proper burial.” “What did you have in mind?” one asked. “Something special” was his brother’s reply. And so they made plans. Since they already had a place where they gathered mulch and clippings and limbs to use on various garden projects, the plan was “only natural.”
So in a sunny knoll not far from where it stood, the remains of the old beech were crafted into an “eyebrow door” that arched over the hillside repository. Its arched shape resembles an eyelid “so the ‘old man’ can still watch over these woods”. There is a window and some vent holes so just enough air circulates around the rich loamy contents inside.
Thus, the old beech was given a fitting resting place by the brothers who loved trees.