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The most beautiful tree I’ve ever laid eyes on

Sometimes little things, simple things, or things of little consequence stick in my mind like a skipping record — playing over and over again.

For me, one of those things is a tree that stands exactly one mile south of the I-75 exit to U.S.-23 at Standish. I can’t get that tree out of my head, and I find myself looking its way to ensure all is well every time I travel.

I am happy to report this morning that, yes, indeed, it has survived the winter and appears quite healthy.

Which, when you think about it, is no small feat.

This week, I gathered and cut up several tree limbs that came down in my yard over the winter. Suffice it to say, there now is enough wood for a nice-sized bonfire from those branches.

So, for this tree to have gone through the winter unharmed is impressive.

Before you think me odder than normal, let me explain.

I am not, generally speaking, a tree man. Neither do I believe was Steve Mitchell, who introduced me to the tree I write about. Both Steve and I, in our careers before retirement, would often find ourselves in Lansing — he usually before the Michigan Public Services Commission regarding something with the Alpena Power Co., for whom he worked — and me generally conducting Michigan Press Association business.

Generally, our times there did not overlap, but, occasionally, they did, and we would share a ride.

On one of those trips, as we neared the Standish exit, Steve commented that we were nearing the site where existed, in his words, “the most magnificent and perfectly formed tree he had ever seen.” While I certainly am no expert on trees, as he pointed it out to me, I had to admit that, as far as trees go, that one was a beauty.

She was beautifully symmetrical, as if pruned and trimmed so each limb would be the perfect complement to the next. Her trunk was strong, her limbs curved just right. Standing there in the woods with others, she was far and away the most easily recognizable because of her perfection.

I had to agree with Steve. She was the most beautiful tree that I had ever seen, as well.

And as I have thought about it over the years, that statement is significant. I have seen the redwoods of the Pacific coast. I have seen tall pines in the Appalachians and the Rockies. Certainly, those were impressive in their own right.

But, when you consider perfection in shape as it appears in nature, with only God as the sculptor and not man, then the Arenac County tree stands alone.

Since that trip when I first learned of her presence, I have watched for her. I love seeing her in full foliage in summer, or the beautiful colors she presents in the fall. It is winter and early spring where you really appreciate her, however, as you see the full outline of every branch and limb with no leaves obstructing the view.

I am reminded as I write this whole column of one tree of a wonderful poem by Joyce Kilmer. The opening line is a classic: “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.”

Kilmer ends his poem by stating “poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”

Which, as I think about it, sums up the point of my column today.

Consider me a fool if you like, I would understand.

But also understand this: That tree represents, for me, stability and peace. It has stood up to high wind, pounding rains, and hot sunshine, and, through it all, it remains standing in perfect symmetry to the rest of the world that surrounds it.

I realize that, one day, that might not be so.

But, as of a few weeks ago, I am happy to share that all remains at peace in the world, at least in the woods of Arenac County.

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