Over Christmas break, my son and I were walking through the woods, collecting hemlock branches that had fallen so I could embed the needles in handmade paper. (Yes, it would have been easier to take the needles straight from the tree, and yes, I know that the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid is killing the tree, despite anything we may do, but I won’t harm a tree, particularly one so imperiled.) I asked him if he had ever seen a healthy hemlock, because I wasn’t sure if he really understood the difference between the hemlocks of my childhood and the hemlocks he knows. He thought about it and pointed to one that did have more needles than most, and asked, ‘is this a healthy hemlock?’ ‘No, sorry dear. If you can see through a hemlock, it is not a healthy hemlock.’ A few minutes later, I hear, solemnly, ‘that really is depressing.’
So, here is an image of hope for you, dear child. That even though your childhood has been colored by the loss of these sleepy summer storybook trees, maybe, just maybe, your children or grandchildren will know their mysterious, peaceful shade.