I remember, as a boy, seeing a mature bald eagle sitting in this oak tree. It must’ve been 1984 or 1985. My mother was driving us from Rock Harbor to Plattsburgh, where we went to school. It was less common to see bald eagles back then. They were present in the Champlain Valley, but less abundant than today. So it was a big deal to come upon one unexpectedly. My mother slowed the car and pulled to the side of the road, cautious because there was very little room to pull out of the lane without getting stuck in a ditch that divided the road from the adjoining field. We sat a few minutes — my mother, my brother, my sister, and I — observing the majestic bird. Substantial in size and commanding in posture and intensity. It may have been the first time I saw this iconic raptor up close, and it made an enduring impression on me.
It was late winter, as I recall, and the monumental oak was bare, damp from rain, imposing. It seemed the perfect perch for such a majestic bird. A tree with dignity, with gravitas. And yet, I yearned for the eagle to spread his wings and soar. We asked my mother to honk the horn. She declined, reminding us that the eagle had been there first, that startling him would disrupt him unnecessarily. I suspected that she too wished the eagle would fly. But she slowly pulled back onto the road, and we continued our commute.
Since returning to the Adirondack Coast in 2003, I’ve made a point of stopping to appreciate this handsome tree during jogs, in the early years, and bike rides, over the last decade. I’ve never spotted another bald eagle presiding over its gnarled limbs, but some day I might. In the meantime I honor the tree — vibrant leafed, laden with acorns, rusting in autumn, bare but for snow frosting — enduring across decades but otherwise virtually unchanged.
Lone Oak Haiku
Dripping after rain,
a vast acorn nursery,
lone oak towering.
— Geo Davis
Sally & Sentry
When I shared this lone oak photograph and haiku on July 23, 2021, our friend and Essex neighbor, Tom Duca, surprised me with a previously unknown detail about this tree.
“You know Sally Johnson saved that tree. Look close. She had a cable strung between the two big limbs so they would not split apart.”
I had not known. But knowing has added to my affinity for this lone oak. A quiet, timely, essential act of kindness by an admirable woman to honor and preserve an iconic tree, our Adirondack horizon’s sentry.