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Guest post: The Things That Matter by Beth Hoffman

May 12, 2014

Beth-Hoffman-Author-PhotoBeth Hoffman will always hold a special place in my heart.  She’s the first author I really got to know after I started my blog and I found her to be warm and genuine.  You can’t find a nicer person anywhere.  I’ve kept in touch with Beth since that first meeting and feel lucky to consider her a friend.  As her second book, Looking For Me, is released in paperback, I’m thrilled to welcome her here with a very special guest post.

The Things That Matter

I live in a town of historical homes. Most were built in the mid-to-late 1800s—Italianates, Queen Annes, Colonial Revivals. All are proud. The trees are old and proud too; a good many are older than the homes they shade. I’ve always been crazy about historical homes and ancient trees (all trees for that matter). So when I was house hunting and found the home of my dreams, I also found the tree of my dreams right in the back yard.

On both counts it was love at first sight and I bought my home that very day. I named the house Mamie, and the giant green ash tree I’ve named Ernie. I love Ernie; he’s somewhere between 110-130 years old and stands approximately 60-feet tall.

Ernie has withstood winds in excess of 50 mph and the assault of major ice storms. When the backlash of Hurricane Ike ripped through Kentucky, I watched in horror as furious winds whipped my giant tree like a swizzle stick. I stood at the window and chanted, “Hang on Ernie! HANG ON!

And he did.

But Ernie is in trouble. His age and the many years of assaults have taken their toll. He recently developed a split in his trunk and a nasty gap farther up on the opposite side. Some people said, “Cut the tree down and plant another one,” and others said, “It’s just a tree, why are you so upset?” I stared at them like they were from Mars. Just a tree?

Ernie matters!

After consulting with an arborist and keeping my fingers crossed that Ernie could be saved, a plan was put into place: four cables to brace the large main limbs and then the latest technology—steel rods driven through the trunk and bolted for internal support. As the tree continues to grow, it will heal around the rods and bolts and become stronger.

My dad was a lot like Ernie—tall, strong, and quietly proud—a salt of the earth genuine American. He was a man who loved nature, animals, and the crisp smell of autumn mornings—a man who knew the fatigue of hard manual labor, and the satisfaction of a job well done.

He also loved trees, and he took stewardship of those on his property seriously. As his days grew shorter and his legs weaker, my dad would push his wheeled walker into the kitchen, shuffle to the table and sit. He enjoyed looking out at the trees that he loved so much—many of which he planted over his long and full life.

The night of my father’s passing, I leaned over the bedrails and wrapped my arms around him as best as I could. It surprised me how solid he was, how the years of manual labor had hardened him to the point that even up until the end, he remained substantial.

My father’s ashes were scattered among the trees, but his legacy lives on in the hearts of his children and in the trees that stand proudly on his property. My dad made a difference in this world. He knew what mattered and what didn’t.

I tell Ernie how important he is to the environment, to me, to the birds and squirrels and the garden that he shades. I often hug Ernie and tell him that I love him while giving his rough bark a good strong pat. Though some people might think I’m “off” or perhaps downright crazy, I don’t care. When I hug Ernie I’m hugging nature, and in a way I’m hugging my dad too—I’m wrapping my arms around something that matters.

When the arborist shared his surprise at how Ernie continues to stand up to nature’s assaults, I just looked up at the thousands of tiny buds that are sprouting and smiled. I believe it’s because he’s loved.


Beth Hoffman is the internationally bestselling author of Looking for Me and Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. Before beginning her writing career, she was president and co-owner of an interior design studio. Beth lives, along with her husband and their four-legged fur-kids, in a historic Queen Anne home in Kentucky. Her interests include the rescue of abandoned and abused animals, nature conservancy, birding, historic preservation, and antiquing.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. May 12, 2014 7:02 am

    What a beautiful post! Reminds me of how important the simple everyday sights are.

  2. May 12, 2014 8:58 am

    Lovely post, Beth. We planted a Mountain Ash over ten years ago and now hold our collective breath each spring hoping it will survive another year against the emerald ash borer, weather, etc. We love this tree and hope to protect it as much as it gives us shade, gorgeous fall colors, and its stately, sturdy beauty.

  3. May 12, 2014 9:18 am

    Yes, lovely post. I need to get this book! In fact, I just got back from Croatia, and saw it in bookstores there too!

  4. Beth Hoffman permalink
    May 12, 2014 9:43 am

    Thanks a million for hosting me today, Kathy! I hope there are big old trees like Ernie at Happydale … lol!

  5. May 12, 2014 9:45 am

    Thank you for this post.

  6. May 12, 2014 9:56 am

    Lovely post! And I like the new pb cover of Looking for Me- thanks for sharing!

  7. Colleen McKeon permalink
    May 12, 2014 11:39 am

    I loved “Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt” & looking forward to reading this new book.

  8. May 12, 2014 11:51 am

    What a wonderful post, “just a tree” imagine someone thinking that, we lost quite a lot of trees this past winter with our ice storm, so it will take many years to replace the tree line. Good luck with Ernie.

  9. May 12, 2014 11:56 am

    Awesome post! I love Beth too!! And her books!! 🙂

  10. May 12, 2014 11:59 am

    You made me cry! What a wonderful tribute to Ernie and her dad.

  11. May 12, 2014 12:23 pm

    Thanks Beth for your wonderful post.

  12. May 12, 2014 12:24 pm

    Of all the authors that I have met (hundreds I would say), I don’t think anybody draws the universal love that Beth gets. There’s a reason for that!

  13. May 12, 2014 12:26 pm

    What a beautiful post! I love trees too. I live in a relatively new development (10 years old), and the trees are still young yet, but I have two in my front yard that I just love. I want to plant one in my backyard (we have no trees back there), but my husband insists we’ll be getting a pool one day and doesn’t want the tree to have to come out (I’m thinking the pool will never come . . . ) My daughter loves to pull leaves from the trees in our yard and I taught her to say thank you to the tree whenever she pulls one off. It’s silly, I suppose, but I hope that she is learning to appreciate trees as the living beings they are.

  14. Patty permalink
    May 12, 2014 12:37 pm

    Absolutely lovely…

  15. May 12, 2014 1:10 pm

    What a beautiful story! I can so relate to this. My 100+ year old Eastern Cedar had the same procedure done when its trunk split several years ago. And yes, some folks thought I was crazy. They still do! But the tree survived.

  16. May 12, 2014 2:58 pm

    Trees embody so much history in their trunks, branches, and leaves. Ernie sounds extra remarkable. Lovely guest post today!

  17. talesofwhimsy permalink
    May 12, 2014 3:19 pm

    You live in Northern Kentucky! You’re not far from me. 😉

    I loved this post. I’m like you. I get attached to trees. We have a gorgeous one in our yard and I’m becoming quite attached. Good for you for fighting for Ernie and thank you for sharing how Ernie is like your dad. I lost my dad 3 years ago and I miss him soo.

    Beautiful post.

  18. May 12, 2014 3:45 pm

    I still have not gotten the new Hoffman book, sad

  19. May 12, 2014 4:06 pm

    I am very envious, as I have a tree in my yard, but it’s nowhere near as cool or as solid as Ernie!

  20. May 12, 2014 4:24 pm

    I can relate to your post Beth! I have a couple of trees in my yard that were small when I moved in 35 years ago. We have grown together, and I don’t want anything to happen to them.

  21. May 12, 2014 9:32 pm

    Wonderful post, Beth! I love trees, too, and when I left my former home in a city in Northern California to come to the Central Valley, what I missed most were the big trees. Yes, we have trees here, too, but not nearly enough! I told my friends that I was suffering from “tree deprivation.”

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  22. May 13, 2014 4:22 pm

    LOVE this 🙂 Beth, I think you know from reading my blog, that I talk to … nature. I was just talking to one of our palms yesterday … to it’s new growth namely, “Oh hey cutie pie! Look at this growth! Keep up the good work!” Ernie means more because of his years and perseverance, but you get me! And I totally think he knows he’s loved 🙂

  23. May 13, 2014 6:45 pm

    A beautiful post- I expect nothing less from Beth! I am looking forward to settling in with this book!

  24. May 13, 2014 9:03 pm

    I love trees to. Our property had 15 trees when we moved here. Now there are only 12, but one of them was a teeny tiny thing when we bought the house and is now as tall as the others. Many of the tree branches go this way and that because of all the hurricanes that blew them around when the were smaller, and I love the beauty of them, even though they look kinda spooky, which is great for Halloween.

  25. May 14, 2014 5:34 pm

    I have not read either of Hoffman’s books BUT I did meet her and picked up both books last night at FoxTale Books. Because of your remarks regarding Beth Hoffman I made a point of going to the author signing last night. She is utterly charming and I can’t wait to read both books! Great call Kathy!

  26. May 14, 2014 5:35 pm

    Loved this post (might be my favorite yet that I’ve seen so far). Any gift of a tree or having a tree involved in any way is always a safe bet for me.
    We just had to have a tree taken down because he was completely dead and a hazard to the house. I admit no one really liked the old, messy tree, but it was sad to watch him go. Sad for me but pretty exciting for Gage 🙂

  27. Beth F permalink
    May 16, 2014 5:59 am

    Oh, oh, this brought tears to my eyes. My old apple tree is suffering from old age too, but Mr. BFR is tending to its needs and it still keeps putting out new shoots.

  28. bookingmama permalink
    May 21, 2014 7:56 am

    Oh my goodness — what a beautiful post. I think this essay reveals to everyone what we already know — Beth is a wonderful woman and writer.

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