A Tree Grows in New Milford

E.B. White is remembered in suburban New Jersey

A view of the Turtle Bay Gardens courtyard from a nearby office building on the East Side of Manhattan
Turtle Bay Gardens, the green courtyard between East 48th/49th streets, 6 pm, 5/26/21

A tree grows in New Milford, NJ… by way of Brooklyn… by way of a courtyard garden in Turtle Bay, New York City.

The writer E.B. White used to live in an apartment overlooking that garden. From his window, the author of “Charlotte’s Web” often admired a particular old willow tree that grew next to a replica Roman fountain.

In the closing paragraph of his famous essay, “Here Is New York,” White referred to the tree as a metaphor for New York City itself:

“…In Turtle Bay there is an old willow tree that presides over an interior garden. It is a battered tree, long suffering and much climbed, held together by strands of wire but beloved by those who know it. In a way it symbolizes the city: life under difficulties, growth against the odds, sap-rise in the midst of concrete, and the steady reaching for the sun.

“Whenever I look at it nowadays…I think: ‘This must be saved, this particular thing, this very tree.’ If it were to go, all would go — this city, this mischievous and marvelous monument which not to look upon would be like death.”

E.B. White died in 1985. The willow tree died in 2009. And some people will tell you that New York City died at the start of a pandemic in March 2020.

I’m here to tell you that none of these things are true.

Just as Wilbur never forgot Charlotte, White is practically immortal and his words still capture readers’ hearts today. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.

Also, before the dying tree was chopped down, composer Stephen Sondheim and other residents of Turtle Bay Gardens arranged for Bill Logan, a writer and conservationist, to preserve clippings from the willow.

Logan, founder and longtime president of the tree-care company Urban Arborists, planted one outside his office in Brooklyn. The shoot from E.B. White’s willow is now more than 40 feet tall, and Logan has donated shoots from the offspring to schools, libraries and parks across the New York City area.

He donated one to me this spring. He just wanted a photo in return. Here it is, Bill:

I picked it up in late March 2021 and took care of it for a few weeks. Last Friday a DPW crew proudly, and properly, planted it on the front lawn of the New Milford Library.

New Milford is a Jersey-side suburb of New York in Bergen County. As the bird flies, it’s a little under 12 miles between the library and Turtle Bay Gardens.

It’s less than a 30-minute drive without traffic, in the middle of a pandemic. But today, the drive took me more than an hour.

My office building overlooks Turtle Bay Gardens, and atop this page is a photo of the view on this warm, beautiful day.

New York is teeming with life (and traffic and noise and energy) today. A storm is approaching. Meanwhile, a small willow tree is growing in New Milford.

Here’s a related essay I posted last summer. Originally published at http://varettoni.blogspot.com.

Posting here about writing, books, tech, family, baseball. More about me at bvarcommunications.com

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