Monday, June 6, 2022

An ode to an Elder Tree

bob and charlotte hall at the elder tree

Editor’s note: Adirondack Explorer board member Charlotte Hall wrote this poem about Tree 103. Believed to be one of the tallest trees in the state, Tree 103 toppled in December 2021 after spending its life as part of a group of giant white pines known as “Elder’s Grove,” near Paul Smith’s College’s Visitor Information Center (VIC).

Charlotte (pictured here with her husband, Bob) read “Elder Tree” on a tour of the Elder Grove during Paul Smiths VIC’s Big Tree Festival in May.   Click here to watch Charlotte reading her poem

Elder Tree

I saw you, 103, oh great Elder Tree:

You were hurting, holding up your broken sister tree,

Straining silently in the summer’s heat.

A tiny tag told me your number, as if a number could be your name.

Some human helper hammered in the tiny 103,

But what name did you bear, unknown to me, oh great Elder Tree?


So many years of silent witness:

Humans cutting down your friends and family.

Then your little grove, spared the saw and reaching to the sky,

Growing old together, oh great Elder Tree.

But one by one the falls, with thunderous unheard sounds,

Brethren around your feet, jumbled on the forest floor,

And soon for you, 103, oh great Elder Tree.


As winter came, I read the dreadful news:

You were down, mighty though you be, oh great Elder Tree!

And in the snow I sought you out,

Jagged shards, fresh sheared and raw,

Your massive body covered in a shroud of white.

I stopped and listened but heard only winter’s moan,

You were silent in repose, 103, oh great Elder Tree.


I will come once more in summertime to touch your barky flank

And feel the moss and ferns that spring from you—death to life again.

Sleep in peace, and feed the forest well, your memory always in the soil—

Now free of 103, your journey starts anew, oh great Elder Tree.


—Charlotte Hall, Paul Smiths

Related Stories

Melissa is a journalist with experience as a reporter and editor with the Burlington Free Press, Ithaca Journal and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. She worked as a communications specialist for the Adirondack North Country Association and is currently digital editor for Adirondack Explorer, overseeing both the Explorer's website and its community forum the Adirondack Almanack. She enjoys hiking, camping and other outdoors activities, and spending time with her husband, their twin daughters, and rescue animals -- two dogs and two cats.

8 Responses

  1. Joy Keithline says:

    Thank you Ms. Hall for your lovely ode to Elder 103.
    All conscious and alive sentient beings love an old tree,
    but only few can express the feeling so eloquently.

    • Charlotte Hall says:

      Thank you, Ms. Keithline, for your comment. The Elders Grove, a patch of rare old growth forest in Paul Smiths, is a profoundly moving place.

  2. Phil Fitzpatrick says:

    Thank you, Charlotte, for this poetic tribute.

  3. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Very nice to read this poem, and sad! What I got from reading it, or what immediately came over my mind, was it being a reflection of humanity…. “as if a number could be your name”, or “Humans cutting down your friends and family.”
    From it I got life and death and love and empathy. All too often we disregard the sanctity of life, of trees and bees, of other humans….all of it, because we are too busy with ego, with worldly things, or because we are tortured souls in whatever degree. In my mind, when 103 came crashing down we, all of us, everyone on this planet, lost a thing of significance, a thing which can never be replaced, and because of this we add to the vacancy which permeates throughout society and which so few of us are even aware of due to a spiritual vacancy within ourselves. If we but could look at trees, versus invisible God’s, and see them as supreme beings, not things to be destroyed on a whim for a return in goods or money, or ‘just because’ as is generally the case, maybe things would be different here on this wee orb Earth! Just maybe! I say not wholly in despair as much as in bereavement, me being of the ‘sensitive kind’ which oftentimes I wish was not the case.

    Just this morning I plucked a book from a shelf which coincidentally reflects this above “103” theme, ‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections’ by Carl Jung, his autobiography, who said thus: “Nature seemed, like myself, to have been set aside by God as non-divine, although created by Him as an expression of himself. Nothing could persuade me that “in the image of God” applied only to man. In fact it seemed to me that the high mountains, the rivers, lakes, trees, flowers, and animals far better exemplified the essence of God than men with their ridiculous clothes, their meanness, vanity, mendacity, and abhorrent egotism – all qualities with which I was only too familiar from myself, that is, from personality No. 1, the schoolboy of 1890….. ”

    What a soul this man had! I’m with Jung on these thoughts as was Thoreau and many others whose bones have long since been moldering in the earth, or who are still with us today, but whose voices are generally unheard because most of us are too busy with self, with worldly things…..! We need more psyche’s such as which this ‘elder’ Charlotte Hall emits in her above poem!! Thank you Charlotte!

    • Charlotte Hall says:

      Thanks for your perceptive comments, Mr. Stehlin. The passage from Carl Jung speaks to me about the beauty and holiness of the natural world in the Adirondacks.

  4. Laura Nevins says:

    How truly lovely and heartfelt. Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts and words for that magnificent tree.

    • Charlotte Hall says:

      I’m glad you like the poem, Ms Nevins. It was sad to see No. 103 down.

Wait! Before you go:

Catch up on all your Adirondack
news, delivered weekly to your inbox