A Reflection by Mike Fink
Our houses on or about Summit are like bird nests. The trees stay put, roots ever deeper and branches ever wider. Families come and go. I take special notice of the copper beech at the corner of Colonial. Irwin Sydney used to live there in the brown homestead with his family of five siblings during our days in the Providence public schools. The copper beech must have been in their side yard for a century or more. It takes that long for the Asian sapling to spread out into the magnificent specimen. As you know, their leaves turn subtly from green to bronze to purple. The trunk that bears this treasure looks strong and smooth as an elephant’s trunk.
Well, Irwin was a pale lad until the late teen growth spurt transformed him into a big guy. But the boyish desire to please and make friends stayed with him. He served me a beer in my sophomore year away at college on my first school break–from an extra ice box on the front porch loaded with quality brew. A nice friendly touch of neighborhood nostalgia.
Last year he came back to town to organize our big high school reunion. He stopped by to tell my youngest son about the old days. “Everybody knew your dad,” he said, with the familiar twang in his voice, “but nobody knew quite why or what he actually did or would or could do.”
Irwin died shortly after the gala rendezvous with classmates he had worked to create. But that superb copper beech of course stands fast and firm. I try to make it into a photo study and a poetic metaphor. The Summit block holds many tales, chapters of lives, historical episodes, from revolutionary times and the French encampment to the diverse migrations of the 20th century. Every household adds a different stanza. The trees that last, that endure, that prevail, give dignity, nobility, and continuity. In fact, when Summit Avenue school brought us all together from the little hillsides, we used to memorize poems about the trees. On Arbor Day, Memorial Day, and other holidays national and local. “He who plants a tree plants hope.” Or, in the signage of our wee world, Hope.

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