The Big Tree - October 2021 (Photo by: Phil Frigon)
by Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW
From time to time, I still go and sit under my special “big tree” that is located in a park in a small town about twenty miles from where I live. The park is known as “Zoo Park” because it is a zoo as well as playground area for kids. My big tree is enormously tall with huge limbs that reach outward and upward, providing a shady canopy of peace and quiet. As I grew older, the big tree became my second, go-to “peaceful place” when my heart was sad or I needed to unwind. I don’t actually remember my first drive through the park when the big tree caught my attention. But after my husband died and I sold Thornberry Acres, our home place, I began making trips to Zoo Park to seek out the big tree.
My first “peaceful place” was in our pasture at Thornberry Acres where my first husband and our family lived for many years. There were hedge apple and mulberry trees in the pasture that provided shade and lined the east-west perimeters, but they were not tall like my big tree in the park. While my husband was alive, he and I took many walks in the pasture, a special place for both of us. And after he died, I would head to the end of the pasture in the evenings where the black and white Holstein cows from the adjacent pasture came running when they saw me coming. They would hang their heads over the fence and stare at me as I gently swung in my glider seat, and we would “talk.” Those big-eyed, gentle creatures were good listeners, welcome company as the sun went down.
My first husband and I also used to take walks at Zoo Park when our girls were young. Our girls would check out the animals, feed the ducks, and finally meander to the playground area to play. After our girls grew up, the purpose of my trips to Zoo Park changed. Instead of a place to make memories with our daughters, the big tree in the park became a place of solace after spending a few hours working at a nursing home. The stories of some of the residents tugged at my heart, especially when I realized some of the residents were younger than I. Since I seldom took time to eat while at the nursing home, I would go by a local convenience store and buy a Dr. Pepper and a package of “hot” peanuts for my lunch. Then I headed for the big tree. I ate the peanuts and drank my pop slowly, savoring the peace and tranquility under the big tree. I watched the birds, listened to the outdoor sounds, and cleared my head.
When a very dear friend became ill, the big tree again offered her limbs of comfort after I visited my friend. It was hard to watch my friend decline physically and realize she would soon be leaving. So I would park my car under the big tree, roll my windows down, and listen to the outside sounds—the purring of a lawn mower in the distance or the squawk of a peacock from the zoo. I watched birds scavenging for tidbits near a picnic table, but mostly it was a peaceful place to “be,” to think, to clear my head before starting the car to drive home.
Perhaps you too have lost a loved one or experienced times of sadness and uncertainty. During those times, maybe you too have longed for a place of peace and serenity, a place to sit and breathe in the sounds and beauty of nature and feel a gentle breeze. No interruptions. Just a peaceful place to reminisce, to think, a place to de-stress and heal. If you do not have a place to go when you are sad, I encourage you to find your own “peaceful place”. It could be an actual place or a place to visit in your head. Or maybe you have such a place in your own back yard. Wherever it is, I hope you find your own “big tree,” your peaceful place, where your heart can heal.
Call about the next "Living Life after Loss" Group at:
709 Liberty, Clay Center, Kansas
Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW, Group Facilitator