The 152 year old tree that brought Holocaust victim Anne Frank through hard times finally fell.
Standing Bear said that man’s heart away from nature becomes hard; perhaps this explains why we continue to dig in our beautiful, life-sustaining oceans. Or how humans are capable of cruelty to animals such as the sharks in the Mediterranean. Nothing is simple, our motives are complicated, and of course there are also good guys. We try to write about them, to propel them and their good causes into the realm of what is possible for everyone. And there are scores of other people who look to nature for help and inspiration. Anne Frank was one of them.
A room with a view
While European Jewry were being persecuted and all around her there was war and confusion, the ugliest side of humanity taking front stage, Anne looked outside her basement window. There stood a towering chestnut tree whose tentacles reached from one side of the street to another.
Treehugger included excerpts of her diary that demonstrate her awe of the giant:
“The two of us looked out at the blue sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew…and we were so moved and entranced that we couldn’t speak,” she wrote.
Though “just a tree” to some, for Miss Frank it was a lifeline. The chestnut tree must have reminded her of the extraordinary miracles that coincide to make a tree happen; perhaps she internalized how all of nature is a mystery, and how when that mystery is recalled, it makes mincemeat out of misery.
The tree finally succumbed to fungus and moths, despite being propped up to keep it alive for another 10 years, during a recent bout of strong winds. It was 152 years old.
But the symbol lives on. According to Bonnie Alter:
Six genetically identical specimens, grown from grafts from the original, have been nurtured in northern Holland and are already 7 feet high, in anticipation of the original being taken down at some point. Canada will get its own which will be planted outside the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre. A Holocaust survivor got a seed pod from the tree and donated it.
And if we are uncertain that a mere trunk and branches and leaves can console a lonely, bewildered soul, then read these words from young Anne’s diary:
Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs. From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind. As long as this exists, … and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies – while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.
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Top image via huliana90212