The chestnut tree that Anne Frank lovingly wrote about in her diary while hiding from the Nazis has been scheduled for the ax in the next few weeks.
The 150 year-old once-magnificent tree is riddled with an aggressive fungus and a moth that gorges on the leaves and is now so unstable that it’s been deemed dangerous. Supporters tried hard to save this special symbol of hope to a young girl who has become the world’s symbol for courage and equanimity, but the Amsterdam city council, after consulting with arboreal experts, has ruled there is no choice but to bring it down. Efforts will be made to replant cuttings from the tree, which will take several generations to reach the size of its parent.
In the meantime, we can keep a little of Anne’s inspiration alive by adding a leaf to the “virtual tree,” a sweet interactive monument full of sights and sounds that will never contract a disease (except maybe a hacker’s virus.)
It’s been awhile since I read The Diary of Anne Frank, but I do remember how her daily glimpses of the chestnut tree and a small patch of sky kept her mood high:
From my favourite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine … As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.
Anne Frank was blessed with a countenance much more generous than I; my diary is full of complaining and depressive thoughts, even though I am supremely blessed with a family and at least forty trees visible from my window that I can go out and touch and smell without any kind of risk. I wish I knew what makes a person still believe that people are “good at heart” in view of so much evidence to the contrary. It doesn’t surprise me at all that Anne Frank’s extraordinary even though ordinary would have been enough words and sentiments have outlived her tree. May they outlive us all.