On my walk through Grant Park Monday morning I came across something sad: an old white pine I had always loved had met its end. Evidently it had snapped during last week’s heavy winds. The park’s crew had already sawed it up and cleared it from the bike path.
It had stood at the edge of a wooded section across the road from the main entrance into the park’s Seven Bridges area. The Seven Bridges is the most beautiful part of the park, and also the closest to home, so I go there a lot, and have always looked up and admired this white pine on my way. No more. Now there will be an empty space, perhaps little noticed by many, but that will require a mental adjustment on my part. An empty space at the edge of the woods, and a corresponding empty space in my heart.
I stood there for a little while, remembering this beautiful white pine and how it contributed to the beauty of the park and therefore blessed all those who passed, whether or not they were even conscious of its touch. I thought about its role in the community of life around it, too. I thanked it for its service, and gave it a final blessing before continuing on my way.
As I walked along the bike trail toward the bluff, I heard the calls of cardinals and crows, smelled the dusky dampness of the woods, and saw the dwindling patches of snow leaving fresh puddles in the hollows. It was the first day of spring. It was a day in which I was reminded not only of endings, but of beginnings. I am grateful to be a witness to both.