Acer saccharinum

Silver Maple:  The Giving Tree                                                         

Safe Harbor, River Road, Conestoga PA (along the Trail of History, to the right of the tennis courts)


Paula Swearingen


The centerpiece of the Safe Harbor Arboretum (see separate entry) is a large Silver Maple trunk.  Some 200 inches in circumference and perhaps 150 years old when it died, this snag now has a Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typina) sprouting from its top.


Forty-five years ago (1974), this tree hosted the wedding of Bill Swearingen and Karen Hollinger.   "I believe that the poem, 'The Message of a Tree' may have been mounted on the frame that you see in the photo of Sandy Zerby, the woman playing guitar," Bill's sister Paula noted.  "If it is the same poem, it was later remounted on a different frame."


Paula later wrote me: 

You were right when you remarked about the bride probably selecting the location. The tree was an important feature for her, and there is a funny twist to it. She was not really at all familiar with the identification of tree species. But, she had incorporated the Kahlil Gibran piece on marriage that refers to an oak and cypress not growing in each other’s shadows (see below). And she had the cake decorated with oak leaves. The fellows were all members of the “Hot Shots” Forest Fire Crew and knew their trees. George, the shorter man, evidently broke it to Karen that it was a Silver Maple and not an oak.


This Silver Maple offers a poignant example of "a giving tree."  While alive, it provided a memorable backdrop for the optimistic bonding of a young couple in matrimony; as such, it was as spiritual a setting as any cathedral could provide.  Now in death it gives even yet, providing substrate and nourishment for the springing of new life.   [Wedding photos from Helen "Pat" Hess.]


by Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)


Then Almitra spoke again and said, 

And what of Marriage, master?

And he answered saying:


You were born together, and together you

    shall be forevermore.

You shall be together when the white

    wings of death scatter your days.

Ay, you shall be together even in the

    silent memory of God.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness,

And let the winds of the heavens dance

    between you.


Love one another, but make not a bond

    of love:

Let it rather be a moving sea between

    the shores of your souls.

Fill each other’s cup but drink not from

    one cup.

Give one another of your bread but eat

    not from the same loaf.

Sing and dance together and be joyous,

    but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone

    though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each

    other’s keeping.

For only the hand of Life can contain

    your hearts.

And stand together yet not too near


For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow

    not in each other’s shadow.