Sharon gasped audibly as we walked across the field towards the V.A. in the warm August sun.
We all stopped.
"It's not there...!" she exclaimed with shock in her voice.
Alas, the tall stump that had once held the magical hinged door we knew as the "Elf Door" was not on our short horizon.
The 'we' was Sharon, our friend Tom and his daughter Laura, our dog Happy and myself. We solemnly walked over to the dishevelled remains of what had been the 'Elf Door Tree'.Laura wasn't sure what we were supposed to be seeing, but she could tell something was not right. Sharon explained that this was once a magical tree with a little compartment inside where people would "leave things." That it had a little door for the elves to use, and that you never knew what you would find when you opened it. Now the whole tree was gone.
All that remained was a sawn stump of what was once an ancient hollow oak tree, broken-off to about ten feet tall in recent years.
We all postulated as to what had happened. The Elf Tree had been chainsawed into a low stump and there was a lot of charred wood and bark strewn about.
Perhaps vandals started a fire? Perhaps the tall rotten stump became so unsteady or insect-ridden it had to be brought down, and the charred pieces were the remnants of an original lightning strike that had burned out the center and created the Elf Door Tree so many years ago? Maybe the young Burr Oak pushing up from its base finally won over and began toppling it's grandparent. Maybe it was purposely burnt to sterilize it before the sawyers brought it down. Maybe it was struck by lightning a second time!
We can only guess.
This was August 1st, 2009, and it seemed as though the cutting was not very fresh. No tire prints remained on the turf. The Elf Tree had been down for some time.
Left was a sad Tupperware box holding a blue Teddy bear and odd bits of paper and plastic.
In it's heyday, the Elf Door brought many a magical moment.
One might find a fake nose, spider stickers, messages, alms, coins, philosophic writings, bus transfers, gum wrappers, super-heroes, snowmen, or any manner of well-wishes, or slanderous oaths.
The first time I opened it's door I felt so 'third-person.' I was thinking "Who is watching me do this...? Will it explode...? Where's the camera...?"
I'd always wanted to take a picture of my camera with the flash going off and stand the photo inside of the little compartment with a string so it popped up when you opened the door, and you felt like you were getting your picture taken.
I regret not doing that.
Once someone left their very detailed and beautifully drawn map sharing their directions to the "Treasure Tree" a.k.a. "The Elf Door."
One day you might find a menagerie of stuffed animals imaging peace, and then a total vacancy the next. Life is like that, I guess.
Fare thee well, Elf Door. We'll always have your memories.
Maybe someday the young Burr Oak can learn your trade.