As I look out my office window, there is suddenly more sunlight streaming through the panes than ever before. In just a few short months, the landscape has changed markedly and is forever transformed. The change was not one that anyone on campus anticipated or wanted, but something we must learn to embrace as a new beginning.
Over the fourth of July, our 300-year-old white oak located in the middle of campus unexpectedly lost a large limb. That was the foreshadowing of what was to come of a tree that has embodied our history, legacy, and community over the past 39 years. This massive tree was a symbol of who we are as a school and community: true to our mission as a family focused community dedicated to developing the whole child.
Over the many years that SRS has been here and for centuries prior to that, the gigantic white oak has spread its protective canopy over our population. The tree was the focal point as people gathered for spring concerts, graduations, weddings, children playing, photo ops too numerous to count, family gatherings and picnics. We watched as the leaves turned brilliant colors each fall, squirrels gathered acorns for winter storage, and branches weighed down under heavy snowfalls each year. Each spring we witnessed the beginning of new life as splendid green leaves emerged.
Eventually, we called in arborists to examine the health and integrity of the tree over the summer months. Who knew a tree could have an x-ray? After extensive testing and examination, it was determined our cherished tree had to be taken down. It was difficult to watch as the tree surgeons methodically took down each branch and limb. Squirrels scrambled to find new homes, now displaced by the fallen tree. Each of us felt the impact of what was taking place that day. Alumni began to chime in on social media with disbelief. They reminisced about their own special memories under that tree. Our community rallied together, remembering something that was such an integral part of our campus climate.
We purchased and planted a young white oak early this fall. New pathways are being paved and grass and gardens planted around this small oak. It is a new tree, striving to grow and mature, as do our children here at SRS. We have said goodbye to many familiar faces over the years, but new families come to carry on the legacy and reaffirm our belief in our school, our strong community, and ourselves. We will have pieces of the old tree made into special keepsakes. It’s now time to move forward, create fresh memories with our new white oak, and say goodbye to our old friend.