by Carl Strang

Yesterday was a day of milestones, celebration, with just a touch of poignancy. My new tree was planted.

A Hill’s oak, in its new home

As I shared last spring, the green ash in my front yard had become infested with emerald ash borers. There was no saving it, so sadly I had to let it go. As I considered replacement possibilities, my thoughts turned to Hill’s oak. I love oaks most of all among tree groups, and Hill’s oak is a species I have seen doing well in the clay soil of the savanna ridge at Mayslake Forest Preserve. Spring Bluff Nursery had the species, which they call by its other name of northern pin oak (though recent taxonomic work makes clear that northern scarlet oak would be a more accurate name), and for an extra fee they were willing to go beyond their usual delivery boundary and plant it for me. That was one cause for celebration.

The other was that Thursday was the day I completed my first full week of 3-mile runs (excepting cross-training days) since I strained my back in mid-April. It has been a long road back. Too little activity, and too much nursing of an extremely painful left side, had left me with an atrophied left leg and total loss of cardiovascular conditioning. Physical therapy, gradual resumption of core exercise training, strengthening exercises, eventually bicycling, and finally awkward bits of jogging, gradually put me on the road to recovery. I hope to run a half-marathon in the spring.

I had saved my last bottle of Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Stout for this day. Only one batch is produced each winter by that Michigan brewery, and none had been available since spring. As I finished my post-run pizza and sipped the last of that beer, I looked out the window at the new tree. It occurred to me then that this tree will be growing long after I am gone. It will shade generations of children waiting for school buses. Its brilliant autumn color will draw the eyes of passing neighbors. Such buried poignant thoughts perhaps are behind all celebrations. So here’s to oaks, to distance running, and to future generations!



  1. Hal Atherton said,

    September 21, 2012 at 7:27 am

    And heres to you my friend, cheers!

  2. Beth Johnson said,

    September 21, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Congratulations on your new beginnings!

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