Inspiration strikes in many ways. Jack Donohue, Madeline Polidor-LeBoeuf, Elizabeth J. Reynolds, and John H. Reynolds penned these beautiful words in honor of the Basking Ridge Great Oak. All works copyright the authors.
The Basking Ridge Oak
by Jack Donohue
The Basking Ridge ancient oak is gigantic
Standing one-hundred-feet tall in its prime
With a trunk circumference of twenty feet
So, it’s seen a lot over its six centuries of time.
Yes, legend says our tree has reached 600
So in 1416, its roots began to grow forth
That’s when Joan of Arc was only four-years-old
And blood still stained the field of Agincourt.
Our stately oak was turning seventy-six
When Columbus set foot on our shore
Michelangelo was still only a teenager
Shakespeare wouldn’t be born for decades more.
When our historic white oak turned one-hundred
And it was feeling strong and spry
The Mona Lisa had just been completed
The paint on the Sistine Chapel was barely dry.
Before our tree reached middle-age
All of our earlier settlers were dead
The Renaissance was finally ending
And an apple was falling on Isaac Newton’s head.
Between its 300th and 400th birthday
Our country was fighting to be set free
Washington sat beneath our tree’s canopy
Dreaming about all that the United States could be.
When our tree was approaching 400
And everything in the world was new
Lewis and Clark were looking for a Northwest Passage
And Napoleon was losing the Battle of Waterloo.
Our tree has provided shade and amazement
To millions of visitors over the years
It’s posed for thousands of photographs
And observed countless smiles, laughs and tears.
And now its final day is fast approaching
It’s lived awfully long, and it’s lived awfully well
And if only our mighty oak could talk
What incredible stories it could tell.
If I Could Speak…Oh, The Stories I Could Tell
GREAT WHITE OAK TREE
by Madeline Polidor LeBoeuf
Some say I’ve been here for 600 years,
I’m the oldest White Oak Tree in the Western Hemisphere.
Carried by the gentle breeze with guidance from God’s mighty hand,
I settled onto this breathtaking place, a bountiful plot of land.
The lush green gardens I sat upon was quiet as the night,
Millions of stars shined upon me, blessed to be part of this magnificent site,
The silvery moon gleamed above, my confidant and friend,
Glistening brightly for me throughout my life, right up until the end.
The Lenni-Lenape tribe settled here so many years ago,
Grateful for their harvest that they worked so hard to sew.
They lived a peaceful life amongst the place my roots had taken hold,
Their courage and bravery so inspiring, should always remain a tale told.
In my youth, my branches strong, reached out to touch the sky,
My leaves swayed in symphony, with the dancing butterflies.
Bark light brown and boughs stretched, made perfect hones for all.
So many reasons to reminisce, how I loved each winter, spring, summer, and fall.
A great commander came to rest beneath my branches bare,
George Washington was tall and strong, wearing braided powdered hair.
Confident, persistent, and committed to the Revolutionary War.
Whispered his dreams of independence & freedom that he wanted for all.
How I will miss this charming town that I have known so well,
Basking Ridge has been my home and with that I must say farewell.
I will miss the divine Presbyterian Church, erected next to me.
The welcoming bells that rung, the prayers and hymns sung, from many a family.
So many footsteps have passed on by the times we’ve shared will be,
Etched upon a painting or a beautiful piece of poetry.
Memories are the treasures to cherish, unlike silver or gold,
They will always remain a part of you where the story of me can be forever told.
The Basking Ridge Great Oak: 1417-2017
by Elizabeth J. Reynolds
I have been around for 600 years.
And witnessed happiness and tears.
I have watched battles go on between all different
Colors, cultures, and characters,
And I have seen peace and serenity.
People have been gathering around me,
And I plea,
I do not want to leave;
This is my home,
All that I have known.
I want to continue to see people
Grow, and live out their lives.
My long crooked and ancient arms reach for the sun’s nurturing rays.
For the last days
Of my life
People come and cut, deep into my body–
Searing into my skin.
I have existed for many years,
And now fate has come to take me home.
The Basking Ridge Oak Tree: 1417-2017
by John H. Reynolds
There are people sitting around me, eating lunch.
People putting cement in me.
Wanting to take me away, but I don’t want to go away.
I am the tree.
The tree is me.