American Chestnut Favors

In addition to their mutual love of water, chestnut trees have special significance for Lisa and Andy.

For Lisa, the chestnuts reminder her of her grandmother: "My grandmother died in 2005. We were really close, and it was a difficult time for me. While I was home for the funeral - and going through her things - my father discovered that she had kept a chestnut in each of her coat pockets, pocketbooks, and dresser drawers. He gave one to me for safekeeping. Upon my return to New York, I returned to work and as I opened the door, two chestnuts lay before my feet. I knew then that my grandmother would always be watching over me. I carry them with me to this day in my handbag."

Andy also has a family connection to Chestnut trees: "American Chestnut trees, as you probably know, were once ubiquitous in the American landscape. They were one of the dominant species in the eastern forests from Maine to the deep south. Sometime just after 1900 the blight came to the U.S. from Asia, where Asian chestnuts had long developed resistance to the disease, and it soon wiped out virtually all the American Chestnuts east of the Mississippi. By 1940 the species was all but extinct. In my twenties, when I was building houses in the Woodstock area and tramping around the Catskill mountain, I often saw the saplings growing out of hundred-year-old stumps. They never survived beyond a few years before succumbing to the blight. So when I found not one but two mature, large American Chestnuts right under my nose on the property [I had recently inherited from my great uncle], I believed that I had been given an extraordinary gift.

To celebrate this shared connection, Andy and Lisa decided to include chestnut trees in their wedding in several ways. First, they included chestnut imagery on the invitations. They were hoping to have their wedding under the grand chestnut pictured above, but had to move the ceremony site due to rain. However, Andy's daughter Paloma still read Pablo Neruda's poem, "Ode to a Chestnut on the Ground" during the ceremony, and Andy told their friends and family about what the Chestut symbolized to them:

"The chestnut is a survivor, representing the attributes of persistence, consistency, and determination against adversity. I told our friends that the old tree shared a sense of the quixotic with those of us who fight for a better world, whether it be the environment, hunger, abuse, human rights. It showed that if you send your roots deep and allow yourself to be nourished by your sense of place, you can stand long after the others have fallen. Ancient societies such as the American Indians and the Druids are some of our ancestral cultures that revered natural objects such as extraordinary trees and rocks, believing that important spirits inhabit them. Pre-Christian societies (now called pagan, a convenient pejorative) all over Europe were animists, and as we struggle to maintain and grow an environmental ethic in the 21st century U.S., it is important to remember that thousands of years ago people all over the world were comfortable with their place in nature."

Lisa and Andy also gave their guests chestnut sapling as favors. "Our guests' favors were chestnut seedlings from the Empire Chestnut Company. Each tree included a brochure from the American Chestnut Foundation. Lisa said, "we thought it would be nice to help foster future generations of chestnut trees and to decrease global warming impacts through active tree planting." Andy added, "By handing out chestnut seedlings to our guests, we were sharing our love of the tree and its symbolic values. They are now in the ground from New York City to Wisconsin." For more companies offering tree and seed favors click here. For basic planting instructions you can print out at home click here.

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