A Not So Lonely, Beautiful Tree

An oak tree. A big, majestic … friend.

I spent hours looking at the mighty oak. Across a dull, paved lot, my eyes hovered beyond my concession trailer for two days. This lonely tree became my friend from yards away. Too busy to closely introduce myself, the only way to communicate was through imaginary vibes … those thoughts a busy man and a tree – both firmly planted in their spots – can have.

I know, maybe this friend didn’t know I was a short leaf dance away. Then again, perhaps he did. Nice enough for me to know he wasn’t lonely during this past Friday & Saturday event visits.

Imagining he was extraordinarily lonely occupied my time. Over multiple decades, tens of thousands kinfolk must have walked by his thick, aged truck. Entering the stately halls of our Jaffa Shrine in Altoona – paying no attention to his wonderful symmetrically round presentation seconds before – they quickly forgot what wasn’t seen. A friend welcoming them.

For two days, in between flipping burgers and cheese-steaks, I noticed. What struck me was how much attention has been paid to the Jaffa building itself … with the circuses, concerts, and events over the past 90 years since the first brick was laid in 1928. The land on which it stands was originally purposed for farming and, by all accounts, my friend stood as a witness to the construction begun on the purchased property. Oh, the history behind his bark and the sights and sounds hidden in rings of mystery.

So loyal he’s been. Granted, what choice was there? Never uprooted physically, but perhaps a bit miffed at folks so drastically changing a landscape, was he. Since years when depression-era backhoes and shovels ravaged a calm, singing meadow, he’s seen busy Broad Avenue paved and re-paved many times over, 23rd and 22nd streets uncobbled, and his own luscious green wide-open, turn-of-the-century meadow partner flattened by impersonal parking lot tonnage. The manicured lawn above his underground historical account could be considered a small token of respect given by the current occupants, I suppose.

So little attention paid. This is a broad assumption on my part. How would I ever know if another friend held out an imaginary or actual cordial hand? No dedicated visitor tree log is happily kept inside the large glass doors under those big red J-A-F-F-A letters arched over a symbolic masonic sabre with a half-moon dangling underneath. Few entered with second thoughts about what they passed. A friend … still standing.

Yeah, I did think these thoughts. There were a few moments, at the end of my Saturday event, to walk over and ask to pull a leaf for clarification. A welcoming, low branch gave me the opportunity to eventually narrow my friend’s name down to, “Mr. White Oak”, thanks to a personal contact and a leaf/tree identification app..

Sometimes, life gives us really cool, new friends. We need to look across weird, dull, bland spaces to see them. They’re only yards away and need our company – if only in that imaginary, vibrant world available in two-day stretches during an otherwise everyday food cart existence.

Yours isn’t a behind-the-grill life I’m assuming, but look up and across from your eyes-down tasks and chat, silently, with a tree.

He, or she if you prefer, will be that friend who will listen without judgement. Theirs is a world of steadiness and majesty, beauty and kindness.

It truly was hours … off and on as sandwiches and drinks were steadily shifting from my hands into the hands of customers. By the end, I was tired. Exhausted from the heat, lack of sitting, and, … yes, nearly six decades of life. Oh, to stand still and just … relax.

Driving off the lot, one last glance back reminded life can be steady, calm, and still … Then it dawned on me: Maybe we can be that tree for someone who needs to see across their empty, dull space? There’s certainly no log book for majesty and beauty, but momentary imaginary friendship when needed the most could be a welcome change.

I’m happy to have a new friend. A big, majestic friend. Perhaps Mr. White Oak in front of the Jaffa Mosque on Broad Avenue in Altoona, Pa, isn’t aware of me. That’s o.k.. In my imaginary world, thoughts and conversations between a busy man and his wiser, bark-laden friend are permissible.

After all, I was always told to listen to my elders.

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