This is the Comfort Maple, thought to be the oldest sugar maple in Canada. It is probably more than 500 years old.
This tree has special significance for my family. My father, my mother, my sister and I have all photographed it over the years — in all the different seasons. Any time we have visited it, we have been awestruck by it, and it has shared with us some of its strength.
I think about what this tree has been alive through — some of the most horrific events of modern history, as well as some of the most hopeful and exciting. It was here long before anything we now recognize as North America.
Through it all, it has continued to grow — to hold firmly onto the ground, to take in the light, to burst into amazing colour, to delight many, to shed its leaves and retreat into itself over winter, only to bud again in the spring. It has repeated this cycle hundreds of times. We who live now have such a partial picture of life — touching a tree like this helps us to take a longer view.
When I recently photographed the Comfort Maple, it was December and the tree was naked, silent and sober looking. When my sister, Elena Galey-Pride, who lives not too far away, photographed it earlier in the fall, it was dressed in glorious and exuberant colour. (She captured the beautiful images in the gallery below.) But both times, it appeared strong and determined, rooted to the earth — its very soul a part of the land it inhabits.
This tree, which is located in North Pelham, is called the Comfort Maple because it is on the land of the Comfort family.
I have been drawn to looking at pictures of the tree this weekend as I grapple with the heartbreaking loss of life in Connecticut. I can’t help but think of all the other brutal, inhuman acts being suffered by by fellow humans all over the world — the very young, the very old and all ages in between — things that go on every day and are not covered 24/7.
But I also have to think like a tree and know that there are trillions of acts of kindness and bravery and deep compassion happening at the very same time. Humans who reach out to their brothers and sisters in recognition that we are all completely and profoundly interconnected. I find a small measure of comfort there.