Old White Pine

I look out my dining window and see a once stunning old white pine. Since I moved back home to Saratoga Springs, New York, in 2014, I have watched the tree covered in snow and showing like ermine with laden boughs. I love the tree. It keeps me company and reminds me to pray for trees and the Green Nation. 

The last few years have been hard on the old white pine. Fellow deciduous trees that blocked the wind now stand empty because of blowdown storms. The old white pine stands on its own now being battered to and fro. This winter has been tough on the tree. Several large branches came down, and the tree is starting to look tattered. There are broken branches within the tree that are stuck and hang like broken arms.

The plan is that Wesley Retirement Community will take the tree down when it is ready to start building the new five-story senior apartment building. It won’t happen for a few years, but I am already mourning the loss of the old white pine. 

The underground landscape allowed puffball mushrooms to grow. Trees have a relationship to all that is alive below ground. The mycelium in the soil feeds the roots and keeps the tree healthy. Now the colony of trees is missing with the loss of last year’s trees. I wonder if this is weakening the old white pine?

I pray and give thanks for the old white pine that has kept me company for six years. I will miss the tree when it is gone. I dread what the view will be with a new building taking the tree’s place. Will the apartment I live in then look out at outside walls, or windows to make it worse. The apartment on the 5th floor will lose its northern view because I am on the 5th floor. And so it goes.

 The blessing in all this is that yesterday I found a small white pine seedling growing near the building in the deep mulch. The seedling would be the old white pine’s gift. I plan to replant it this spring near the woods with sun exposure. I am so grateful. I was that worried. Who knows if I will be in this apartment when the tree is cut down? Maybe I too will be gone. But at least a new generation of white pine will regenerate if all goes well.

I read The Overstory a book about trees, by Richard Powers. The text states, “For there is [the] hope of a tree, if it goes down, that it will sprout again, and its tender branches will not cease. Though the root grows old in the earth and the stock dies in the ground, at the scent of water, it will bud, and bring forth boughs. But man wastes away and dies and gives up the ghost, and where is he?

White Pine is a native tree in the eastern United States. Known for five needles.

Walk during the Pandemic

The 36-acre campus at Wesley Retirement Community is pretty safe from being crowded because it is private. Outsiders do walk here daily but are limited in numbers. Yesterday it was an older male with a white beard and his black dog. I avoided him by walking at least six feet away, as directed by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). We did talk at a safe distance. He said he came over daily to visit his mother, who is in the Spring Nursing Care building, which was under lockdown because of the Coronavirus virus.

The gentleman called his mother on a cell phone to let her know he would be near her bedroom window shortly. There are four floors to the Spring Building. Administrative offices are on the first floor. It was a healing visit, and I was privileged to witness it. I, on the other hand, circled the Prayer Carn in the small park and said a decade of the rosary for those who are dying alone. May the dying be at peace and know they are walking on in peace and love. May they know they are not alone.

Woodland trail to habitat
Woodland trail to habitat


By Mary Ellen Ryall

Before the Coronavirus, I used to use paper towels to clean out kitchen sink scraps. I remember my grandmother using newspapers to clean up sink filters. She used newspapers also when peeling vegetables and fruit.

That is being thrifty when there is a paper crisis in the grocery stores. Adapting in little ways makes my mind slow down to earlier methods used by families across America in the good old days.

Are you starting to observe little meaningful ways to weather the Pandemic?

This week a refund check came in from the hospital. I thought, oh goody, now I can order that puppy statue I wanted. Then I thought again. The refund is going to a savings account where it will earn a pittance of interest. Money may get scarce, and I better hang on to mine.

After making too large a portion of mashed potatoes last evening, I wanted to recook them the next day. Years ago, a Peruvian woman used to stand outside the building where I worked, in Carmen de la Legua. She sold crisp potato balls filled with bits of vegetables and hot pepper. She offered hot sauce to go with it, and I loved the dish. Of course, I made a version of the potatoes this morning. Slowing down allows me to wander in my mind to earlier times and memories of food and days of when I was young.


People are not driving, which is a gift to the trees, and the very air we breathe. Mother Nature takes care of herself.

Is it a hardship to be forced to stay at home with the family when we are fortunate enough to have one? Perhaps it is a time to build family relationships. What a gift it is. Life is so fleeting.

Now is a time for meaningfulness. Meditation, prayer, and ceremony are enlightening ways to wake up. In the morning is the time to ask our Creator what is expected of each of us today? Listen. It is not the time to ask what our God can do for us. Listen and practice living to your higher purpose.

All the unnecessary chatter and all the running around, have come to a standstill. Give thanksgiving for the silence, the better to listen. Turning inward opens the heart and allows us to hear, truly hear the heart’s messenger. Photo white cedar copyright Mary Ellen Ryall