Over the years that I’ve lived in the District, Ohio Drive has become one of my favorite city streets, especially around this time of year – the non-tourist season. Compared to many other routes, the car traffic is relatively light. The road follows the bends of the Potomac, offering up rare views of open space in the urban environment.
Cherry trees, willows, and elms line the green space. Initially I passed along the street and saw them all collectively, a mishmosh of tree trunks and branches. But day after day of using this road, I grew to see them each distinctly.
The willow trees remind me of home, and a neighborhood tree whose branches my sisters and I used to occasionally abuse with our body weight. The cherry trees (of which I have learned there are more than one type) fascinate me with their staggered blossoming and their smooth slate-gray trunks.
Every day I would also pass a large tree – an elm, I think – that abutted the edge of the Potomac. Larger than many of the other trees along Ohio Drive, I thought surely it would outlast us all. Or at the very least, me.
Occasionally I stop to check in on the trees, comforted by their presence.
This elm, with its imposing size relatively to many of the other trees, was one of those I liked to visit.
Over the summer I noticed that it was really suffering. I suppose it had been ailing for a while, but I had not been paying enough attention to the details.*
Late last month, I saw the tree had been marked to be taken down. I rode by on the last day of the great elm’s existence as the crew prepared to sharpen its blades and remove it. I realized that I had still been living in the fantasy that somehow the tree could overcome its illness and recover.
That day I recounted all the times I had passed underneath or beside this great tree, and unearthed some of the photos I had of it.
I also understood then that I have developed a pleasant relationship with these trees. It lifts me to see them each day. Their ability to withstand the winds and storms off the Potomac inspires me to endure the headwinds and adverse weather my commutes sometimes dole out. I’m going to miss this tree and I wrote this post to honor and remember it.