Once there was a tree …

Living in a place with no trees would be desolate and unimaginative, the lack of fresh air stifling to the lungs and spirit. Like a barren planet. No nesting spots for birds. No rope swings for neighborhood children.

East Dallas streets are lined with majestic trees, some with boughs brushing the ground and branches reaching high above historical homes. These trees have proudly kept watch over the city, silently witnessing her growth through the years.

Longtime East Dallas resident Harry Gibson has one of the most decorated trees in Munger Place. His 100-plus-year-old Vitex tree, twisted and gnarly, is loaded with aromatic purple blooms in early spring and butterflies throughout the summer. This prominent tree marks the gateway to his generous wrap-around porch, which offers a bit of protection from the overbearing Texas sun. Both the tree and porch are rich with history and selflessly give something to all who take the time to slow down and enjoy, whether it’s for a glass of wine on the swing or a stroll underneath the tree branches that form a natural arbor.

In the evening, the pathway leading to this constant gathering spot is lit by the soft glow of white twinkle lights woven through the tree’s branches. Harry’s tree anchors the neighborhood. It anchors the neighbors.

Years ago, an arborist from the Dallas Arboretum took a cutting from Harry’s backyard white-blooming Vitex tree to propagate an amazing stand of Vitex trees overlooking White Rock Lake. Thousands of annual visitors to the arboretum enjoy walks underneath these beautiful trees, in part due to Harry’s nurturing green thumb.

Hippocrates wrote of the Vitex tree’s mysterious medicinal qualities thought to cure diseases of the spleen and uterus. Whether or not the tree can cure various ailments is undetermined, but the draw it has in our neighborhood is magical.

For more than 40 years, Harry Gibson has watched his tree flourish, and his tree has watched over him.

And the tree is happy.

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