Friends of the Church Street elm gave the tree a fond farewell in word, song and hugs.

End of An Elm's Era

On a sunny and warm March 2, a group of about thirty Moravian students and administration and faculty members gathered to say goodbye to the large elm tree on West Church Street. The elm, reputed to be over 200 years old, was slated for removal because of its unhealthy and potentially dangerous status (more details here). Though the reason for the assembly was regrettable, the mood was also one of appreciation for, even celebration of, the tree’s many years of providing air, shade, color and other gifts to campus and Bethlehem visitors and residents.

The informal ceremony opened with a welcome by Moravian chaplain David Bennet, who noted that the value of an object tends to result in a restriction of access to it. The fact that we have free access to treasures like the old elm tree, he said, shouldn’t desensitize us to its value. Professor of religion Don St. John, who organized the arboreal tribute, shared prayers taken from a canoe-making ceremony of British Columbia natives. Students provided musical selections and a poetry reading; the Environmental Coalition distributed vouchers for tree seedlings. College president Christopher Thomforde—who described himself as “the most tree-like of us all”—concluded the occasion by remarking that all of us have a desire for our lives to be noticed and appreciated, and expressed hope that everyone assembled would enjoy such a blessing. He closed by reading the Robert Frost poem “Tree at My Window” on behalf of all the presidents who had viewed the elm while living at Frueauff House over the years.

For those of us who appreciate the elm and other trees, Don St. John offers the following quote and original poem:

“Did you know that trees talk? Well they do. They talk to each other, and they’ll talk to you if you listen. Trouble is, white people don’t listen. They never listen to the Indians so I don’t suppose they’ll listen to other voices in nature. But I have learned a lot from trees: sometimes about the weather, sometimes about animals, sometimes about the Great Spirit.”  -- Tatangi Mani (Walking Buffalo)

Listening to Trees

How do you listen to trees?
Not with your ears—
But with your whole being.
With what you are.

A tree is a presence
To which you open.
A friend
With whom you sit.
A sage
From whom you learn.

To listen to a tree
Is to return
To sanity, simplicity,
The “uncarved block."

How do you listen to a tree?
With hushed expectancy--
As when a mother, awake in the dark,
Listens for her infant’s cry.
With rapt intensity--
As when a patient, moving forward in his chair,
Weighs the doctor's words. 
With vibrant harmony--
As when a singer,
Losing self,
Becomes the song.

Losing self,
Become the tree.