A Tree Falls in our Woods

I love working in the woods and I’ve come to know all the great trees on our land. They’re like friends – the surviving American elm that looks like a frozen geyser as it towers above the other trees, the dying butternuts in disarray, the wolf pines, the sturdy black cherries, and, of course, the centenarian sugar maples.

So when I’m cutting downed wood or clearing old paths and cross-country trails and come upon one of my giants lying on the ground, the loss is deep and personal. And when I heard Con Hogan had left us, I knew one of the giants in Vermont’s landscape had fallen.

We’re told such losses are simply “nature’s way,” but that does little to assuage our grief. And so we rely on our memory of his stature, the shade and shelter he provided for so many, the nourishment and care he offered, not to the beasts of the wild, but to our children, neighbors, those whom our economy left behind, and the offenders among us. Con cared deeply for us all.

His colleagues and coworkers will better detail the myriad ways in which Con made Vermont a better place. We served on several boards together, but more importantly I saw Con as a friend, mentor, confidant and one to whom I could go with my confusion and despair – the very same confusion and despair that still draw me into the woods.

Con once asked me to invite some CEOs from the VT Business Roundtable to join him and some inmates for a meal in the South Burlington Correctional Facility. We sat interspersed with offenders and carried on conversations as best we could over stainless steel plates of prison fare. A few weeks later, he asked me to invite them again to my office where he asked us to contribute some funds so he could assemble a woodworking shop for an offender coming out of prison after forty-five years. The old man was reluctant to leave behind the woodworking tools he’d access to in prison for making his elegant birdhouses.A giant among us has fallen and, as I head into the cool, dark woods, I know my sadness will in time turn to gratitude as I remember all that Con has given us.