From the day I was born to my 28th birthday, I lived in a house in a tiny French village. My family never owned the house. We absolutely loved it, as we had all of our fondest memories there.
In the big, green backyard, there is « un chêne », an oak tree, which I believe is the oldest one in town. You can see it from far away when driving on the main road by the property.
I have always been mesmerized by the chêne’s glorious height and its long and complicated branches, a network of wooden strings I found so strong and strangely organized.
In my childhood, it was my retreat when I needed to be alone. When I was upset, I would pack up my teddy bear and go on a (very short) journey to the chêne. Sitting there, shiverring sometimes, hoping somehow for my parents and brothers to notice my absence, I would feel protected. I was in my strong ship and nothing could happen to me.
As I grew up, the chêne became a burial ground for my cats, and I remember feeling anxious to discover, when visiting the chêne, bones possibly dug out by the rain.
As the seasons would go by, the tree leaves kept their glorious colors, showing new growth, promising that, no matter what dramatic changes my family was experiencing, the tree, at least would stay. I tried to draw it many times. I tried to climb it. I tried to build weak, ephemeral paper cabins at the base of the branches. But none of this ever seemed possible and I would always fail.
I think in a way I was trying to own it, to have it be mine, which never happened.
What I know for sure, is that the tree owned me.
When my family had to move out of the house against its will, I realized that my very peculiar love for this tree had started very early, as I found drawings where the chêne is always drawn with very vivid, colorful leaves.
I realized then how much the strong roots of the tree were also at the very base of my own foundations.There is always a small pinch, an uncomfortable know in my chest when I visit my parents’ village and pass by my chêne as I drive on the main road towards the new house. The thought that I cannot sit under its imperial branches anymore sometimes saddens me, but I know that this giant is there to stay, and that sole thought happens to comfort me. The chêne lives in its own, deeper time, and I am so much more little than its branches will ever be.
Herbarium image featured in header: