It was, after all, only a chestnut tree. And trees fall every day. But this one was special. This particular 150-year-old chestnut tree stood outside Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam. It was the tree she wrote about in her famous diary during her years of hiding from the Nazis in WWII.
I don’t remember reading about the tree. I was unaware that an effort to save it had been launched in 2007. And we all know that trees don’t live forever, no matter how much we might wish it. So maybe it should have come as no surprise that a storm toppled the tree today.
Still, I’m saddened by the news. History occasionally confers special meaning on individual trees, as it did on the Anne Frank tree. The “Survivor Tree” that stood strong in the face of the Oklahoma City bombing is another such tree.
And as individuals we sometimes adopt or plant our own special trees. We establish memorial trees, or carve our initials on them, or bury our loved ones beneath them. I have one — a tiny, stunted little pine tree growing defiantly from a crack atop a giant boulder outcropping up near Allenspark, Colo. I first noticed the tree back in the ’70s or ’80s when I pulled over to check a map or something. It’s still there, existing more than actually growing, because it hasn’t gotten noticeably larger over the years. I admire that gritty little tree’s determination to endure where nature planted it, in a difficult and unlikely place.