Sometimes there is loss

We got to help plant a tree.

It was a very special occasion; in early December we were invited by a few folks who work for the Arboretum to help plant some trees. This came about because one of our favorite trees for many years now (we named her Lily) was cut down and we did not know it was going to happen. All of a sudden one day, Lily wasn’t there. When we let the Arboretum workers know how sad we were and how much we had loved Lily. They felt bad. They had not known we had a relationship with that tree. They invited us to help plant some new trees in the area where Lily had been.



So, we planted a tree – an Oregon Oak. We felt very lucky as we helped dig the hole and put the baby tree in the ground and shovel the dirt on top. Our Opal 1 friends helped too. When we go walk in the Arboretum, we often go by our tree. We look for it, say hi and touch it gently as we go by. We have been thinking about this tree, watching it and wondering what is happening to it in Winter. Is it growing, is it sleeping? Do we notice if it is getting bigger?

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Just the other day as we were playing outside in the Rocky Space, FA noticed that we could see our tree all the way from Rocky Space. He knew it was our tree because of the pink ribbon on top of it. The Early K really loves that our tree has a pink ribbon on it.

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A few weeks ago we went out hiking. As we got to the bottom of the hill (we planted our tree on top of the hill), we began to look up and search out our tree. I couldn’t find the pink ribbon and I said to the children, oh, the pink ribbon is gone – I don’t see it anymore. As we all strained to see, someone said, I don’t see our tree! We hurried up the hill, eyes searching.

When we got to the top, this is what we found. Our baby tree was gone.



There were many emotions – surprise, sadness, confusion, discomfort. We stood around in a circle and shared some ideas about what we thought might have happened. Later we revsited those ideas and decided to send an e-mail to Rachel and Martin the friends who helped us plant the tree. Here are some excerpts from our letter:

 The kids were wondering:  "Where did our tree go?"

Some of the kids have a theory that the tree went underground for the winter and they would like help figuring out how to get it out of the ground.
Some of the kids have a theory that it was knocked down by the storm and workers thought it was a branch that fell down and took it down.  Others also think the storm blew it down, but now it is lost.  They would like help to try to find it.
They want to know:  "Can you help find our tree?"
The children feel sad and mad that the tree is gone.  They wonder "how come all the other trees didn't get knocked out?"  They would like the tree to be planted back and "we can work as a team and build it back!"

Their response did not offer a solution – it seemed that there was no solution. Yet…


Our tree is still missing. When we went by the dirt patch again the other day the students exclaimed,

"It is still gone!"

What do we do now? From the teachers point of view also this is disappointing and sad. The disruption of these important relationships in the arboretum is frustrating! But we wonder if there is a way for this to be an opportunity? When working with such young children, we do not go out in search of things that are difficult or tragic, when something so real happens, real emotions are the result. And so maybe the best thing to do is to head into it and make our next move together.

What can we do for our missing tree? What do we want to share with it, let it know? How can we communicate to it that we still care for it. How can we support this friend? The finding and return of the tree itself is out of our control, but we can respond to what has happened and to our own emotions. 

What power exists in taking action even if we don't bring the tree back? Why take the time to recognize and name this sadness that we all share? We want to the children to have a sense of hope and a feeling of agency– empowered, not hopeless. We have a voice and we can let the world know that a baby tree is being missed and that we care. We can DO something that will matter. The children deserve an opportunity to take some action that will give them experience to think with next time they have an occasion to feel victimized. 

We will think ABOUT our tree and what might have happened. And then we will do something that will give us a chance to develop strategies to think WITH as hard and disappointing things happen in our lives. We welcome your thoughts.

"It's the arboretum. When we find our tree we will be happy." PH 

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