Stock photo of the Charter Oak

The White Oak

Hello dear readers, thanks for taking the time to relax to a story of a particularly great tree. Today we’ll be hearing from a white oak, the official tree of Connecticut. Before he shares his family’s story, I just wanted to thank you for caring enough about the trees to come here.

If you’ve been following American news, you’ve likely heard of the destruction of Joshua Trees at Joshua Tree National Park. The US government has been partially shut down for weeks now as Trump demands funding for the border wall and the Dems continue to resist for economic and humanitarian reasons.

Because 800,000 people are out of work due to the shutdown, the parks are open free (yay for free access to these preserved lands) but also un- or understaffed and thus open to destruction (boo for people abusing them). Trees that take scores of years to mature and centuries to develop, trees that were historic and protected by the nation itself, have been cut, and for what?

So thank you for taking the time to honor trees here.

Today I stumbled across this ad for a BBC show on actress Judi Dench, who apparently has a passion for trees as well. It’s beautiful, her acres of cultivated and forested land and her love and interest in the trees’ stories. In the preview, she mentions an oak in particular.

Oaks are some of my favorite trees because of their sturdiness and because I grew up around so many; you can’t find them in every part of the US! The white oak we’ll hear from today is an especially dignified fellow with a legacy that he stakes his pride in. He also has an appreciation for the diversity of forest around him.

I hope his words will encourage you today! Enjoy!

White Oaks are common all across the eastern US, and http://forestry.ohiodnr.gov/whiteoak, where this photo is from, describes them well.

White Oaks are common all across the eastern US, and http://forestry.ohiodnr.gov/whiteoak, where this photo is from, describes them well.

 

Greetings, young one. I heard you call me stubborn as you walked by earlier, noticing my brown leaves still sticking although it is March.

While I prefer to be called regal as a descendant of the historic white oak that saved this state when it was still a colony, I will let it slide this time. It was our persistence, devotion to the cause, and willingness to sacrifice that made my family line historic, after all, and I suppose stubborn is simply a more callous way of phrasing those attributes.

If you are not too absorbed in your daily activities, please sit down for a bit. Do you enjoy history? We white oaks, or quercus albas as some might say, are proud of our legacy. Take some tea while I share.

Back in the 1600s, we had tension between a lot of groups, but my family was associated with the English Americans, and the actual English folk had some issues with them being here. The settlers, or colonists really, had managed to be granted a charter. They were happy, like you. Yes, I see your smile, the interest in your eyes. But they were not in the clear.

A new king rose to power in the east – technically England, but didn’t I sound like Tolkien for a moment? And England is east of here. Well, moving on.

King James II did not want us to have the power granted in the charter. There was a meeting between the two groups in Connecticut, and during it, the governing document went missing. You can read about it on the state’s website. That night, one of my ancestors had the honor of keeping the great charter. That grandmother, known as the Charter Oak, lived over 200 years but passed away before my birth.

I myself have been rooted in this North Haven soil for over a century. These stories were passed on to me from my ancestors. But I have seen my own good share of American history.

For example, after the travesty of slavery ended, I lived through an eerily similar Jim Crow era. I was here on this Northern ground for all of it and have observed what I can from this limited standpoint on Sackett Point Road.

The real demographic change in this area occurred during my younger years – the influx of Italian immigrants to this region, yes. I’m glad you know a bit about that social change for our state! It was a blessing to be sure. I witnessed that history being built before my eyes.

My beech and red oak neighbors, the evergreens yonder, they have been good friends to me throughout the years. They cannot claim the same heritage as I, but I appreciate their company nonetheless. Their families have their own unique stories. Mine is embedded, written, preserved in Connecticut history, as we white oaks are the state tree, and I take great pride in that.

Yet I assume you can see by my speaking with you short, loose-limbed creatures that I am not so haughty to think we white oaks are the greatest of all. No, we simply played our part in making this nation a better place.

I do not see much of it with you loose-limbed little ones in this area, but we trees celebrate our diversity and integration here in the Northeast. What do you think of this, young one?

Stock photo of Avon, CT featuring numerous types of trees in harmony

Stock photo of Avon, CT featuring numerous types of trees together

 

Are you off already? Thanks for sharing tea and listening to this rough but royal old fellow. I appreciate your company. Perhaps you will still call me stubborn, but I will hold myself tall till my dying day because I know who I am and where I have come from. I pray your family may know the same lasting honor as mine. Go in peace.

 

Advertisements

Remembering Rodney Sisco

I believe too much in invincibility, but death comes anyway. Sometimes it is inescapable. Sometimes it is unexpected. Always it hurts.

His name was Rodney.

It hurts to see a man so full of love taken away. A man who had impacted my alma mater for three and a half decades, resolving conflict, bringing people together, listening to everyone who came into his office, establishing a space for us students in the Office of Multicultural Development (OMD), caring for students and especially those of color.

He was only in his fifties, but cancer doesn’t care.

Rodney Sisco.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought my future children might know and be blessed by him, this man who so profoundly shaped my life through the OMD. The classes and generations to come, what will they do without him to guide and support and influence and stand up for them?

Rodney Sisco, husband, father, mentor.

He was a gentle man, well over six and a half feet with a huge heart to match. He gave great hugs, and despite his busy schedule, he worked to create times to meet with me in his office when I asked. He had an open jar of candy on his center table and photos of his two sons and his wife covering his desk along with a few geeky trinkets. He was warm and welcoming. He was someone we could trust.

He was a gentle man.

Rodney Sisco, Director of the Office of Multicultural Development.

His skill set was expansive. He was one of a handful of people on campus certified in conflict resolution. He directed the OMD from a small corner office to the central space it is now and worked for the benefit of students, showing what a black man can achieve even at a PWI. He was intelligent, articulate, thoughtful, engaging, patient, gracious, and visionary. We needed him.

Dear Rodney.

He mediated for the whole campus, interacted with most students of color who attended Wheaton College (IL), and spoke life into all the individuals he met. Over the years, he must have impacted many thousands of people. I know I would not be the woman I am today without his influence.

In the few days since Rodney has passed on to be with The Lord (he died on 30 December 2018), I have seen testimony upon testimony about his life and the positive impacts he left. We will remember him well. I pray his legacy will encourage thousands more to come.

~~~

To those of you who would like to be taught by him even in his passing and learn more about his life, here are three of the chapels at which he spoke:

Peace.