"Something great and noble"

A Hole in the Universe

Sharing Stories
August 12, 2023 at 7:26 p.m.
In memory of a 75-year-old weeping willow tree in Seattle.
In memory of a 75-year-old weeping willow tree in Seattle.

...by Harriet McNamara


A Hole in the Universe

By Harriet McNamara

“If you make a hole in the universe, you have to replace it.”  My friend, Masa

Outside my bedroom window the weeping willow tree sweeps and bends in the rare Seattle sun. I thank God for such a day. The delicious smell of morning coffee enhances the moment.

My euphoric feeling is opposed by an intuitive notion that something quite tragic is about to occur. I run to the bedroom.

They are two. A lady leaves the house next door. A man, strong build, speaks to her. I know. It’s about the tree.
I scream, “No they can’t destroy the tree.” She raises her hands as if to say, “It’s out of my control.”

I dash out of my apartment to the man. He tells me that he’s Native American. He knows about destruction.

I call the city. It’s a 75-year-old weeping willow tree. Nothing is old in Seattle. We three form a communication conduit.

Soon the city environmentalist comes. With his arrival comes the man in the pick-up truck with a fat stomach and red suspenders. Environmentalist vs. stomach and red suspenders. He has a permit to remove the tree. It could fall down and destroy the nearby houses.

The man from the city can see that the tree is not sick, but developers always use this excuse to cut down trees. I leave my apartment to meet him. He knows my name from the conduit. We can’t stop them.

I feel sick. I remember the day papa died—that kind of sick. Something great and noble will be missing from my life.

I plan the funeral. I find flowers. The kind that would grow under a weeping willow tree. With two branches from the tree, I make a clumsy cross. Out of the 200-plus photos I’ve taken of the tree, I choose one taken at twilight. Now it’s a hole in the universe. 

I glue this picture to a board on which I write my friend Masa’s words, “If you make a hole in the universe, you have to replace it.”   Sprinkling water over the whole of it, I pray that the developers will have to replace it. What took one day to kill will take 75 years to replace. Many tears later, I try to remember this was once a place of beauty and hope.

Harriet McNamara studied photography, journalism, and tribal art history and is very respectful of nature.

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