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New designs from a tree’s former fullness

A huge white oak tree fell to the ground one day last week. Well, it wasn’t really a huge white oak tree. It was Huge. Not really. It was HUGE!

It was old. Well, it was OLD. (Maybe the tree greeted Mother Theodore and her companions as they explored their forest home.)

The day the tree fell, the sun shone; the sky was bright blue and cloudless. Even a slight breeze would have been welcome to stir the hot and humid air; but the day was completely still.

The mighty white oak simply fell to the ground.

How could that happen? It had been standing tall the day before. Large, beautiful deep green leaves still graced its branches. Yet it simply fell.

Not so simply as it turns out. The giant white oak was completely hollow inside. Completely. The tree could no longer use the elements of sun, water and soil to produce its life-giving energy.  It just couldn’t anymore. It was empty.

Empty but not useless. One of the sisters came out to find pieces of wood suitable for making wooden flutes. A local woodcarver arrived to find wood to create hand-hewn bowls and crosses and angels – all sorts of wooden objects. Workers will saw the tree into pieces and then make woodchips to use in landscaping on the campus. In all these ways and more, the mighty white oak continues its life and usefulness.

Usefulness isn’t everything though. The towering tree had delighted generations of people with its tall and upright trunk, thick branches and lush growth.

But on its final day, the day of its collapse, the white oak burst forth with a new kind of beauty. In one final explosion of its energy, the huge and old oak tree created delightful wooden sculptures of its own. In one final explosion of its energy, the tree used its emptiness to fashion designs from its former fullness.

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Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise was the general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods from 2006-2016. She previously served as a high school teacher, college administrator, postulant/novice director and director of advancement and communications for Congregation. From September 2017, Sister Denise serves as Donor Relations Associate in Mission Advancement office.

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13 Comments

  1. Jeanne on July 23, 2018 at 7:41 am

    A modern day GIVING TREE true story!

  2. Rita on July 23, 2018 at 8:44 am

    Beautiful tribute to the tree’s continued usefulness!

  3. Donna Butler on July 23, 2018 at 9:40 am

    Denise,
    I’m sure this tree is deeply honored by your commentary and by those who will give it new life. MTG would love this sensitivity of her Daughters (and sons) of the Forest!

  4. connie Schnapf on July 23, 2018 at 10:46 am

    Thank you Denise, for this beautiful reflection. I am always in awe at these gentle giants.

  5. Kay Quinlan on July 23, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    A beautifully written obit for a tree that may have sheltered the original sisters. Mother Theodore is no doubt giving it a rest now. Well done good and faithful servant.

  6. Mary Carroll Blocher on July 23, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    It was a “Giving Tree” just as Mother Theodore was a giving woman!

  7. Sister Connie Kramer SP on July 23, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    What a wonderful tribute to a white oak tree! Thanks Denise for taking the time to write this beautiful reflection.

  8. Cynthia MacWhorter on July 23, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    Losing a tree like this is sad, but your insights regarding its new life are of course so in keeping with what Jesus taught us. Absolutely love the way you started it!

  9. Rosaline Secrest, PA on July 25, 2018 at 9:56 am

    May we have a new appreciation of these beautiful HUGE OLD trees for we cannot predict how long they will continue standing.

  10. Brent Powell on July 26, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    Always looked at the tree when driving to mass on Sunday. Will miss seeing it and thinking what has happened during its life

  11. Gloria Memering, SP on July 28, 2018 at 11:45 am

    I add my heartfelt thanks, Denise, for your awe-inspiring reflection!

  12. David H. Corcoran, Sr., Ph.D. on July 29, 2018 at 10:57 pm

    Dear Sister Denise, Could the stump of the tree be carved into some sort of natural artwork that would reflect the stability of the Sisters of Providence in their various ministries? A good project for St. Mary’s of the Woods College Art students? I’m just thinking out of the box, as I’m so appreciative of the sound education I received from the SPs at OLPH, Clarksville, so many years ago. The stump reminds me of one of many “standards of living and life” that I learned from you SPs! Just an Idea!

    • Denise Wilkinson on July 30, 2018 at 1:25 pm

      What a lovely idea, David! I’ll pass it on to our sister artist in residence and to the art faculty at SMWC. Thanks for sharing your out of the box thinking! And we’ll both praise Providence for the SPs who gave you a good, solid foundation for learning. Sister Denise

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