We had to cut down a sick sugar maple near our house. The arborist counted the rings: 170.
170 years ago Thoreau walked around this neighborhood. Maybe he walked under the tree’s branches. Maybe at this time of year, he kicked up its fallen leaves. The abolitionist John Brown visited a house on this street, too.
Come to think of it, 170 years ago was roughly the period that Concord’s “genius cluster” hung out together, as author Susan Cheever describes the Concord writers in her book American Bloomsbury.
Somehow looking at the rings on a tree that you more or less took for granted makes you think about historical characters that always seemed in the distant past. You imagine that you might have had a nodding acquaintance with Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, and various Alcotts if they hadn’t unfortunately died a few years before you came to town.