The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

June 23, 2007

Angel in tree rings serves as sign of hope

BY BARBARA GREENBERG

GEORGETOWN — An area couple took their own version of a Rorschach test — not in an ink blob, but in a tree limb.

Sherri and Jerry Conklin enjoyed the ancient soft maple in their backyard, right outside their bedroom. But branches from the tree, which Sherri estimated at more than 100 years old, had fallen and damaged their home.

With summer’s increased chance of storms, the Conklins decided to be proactive.

“We hired a tree service to cut the tree down,” Sherri said. “But we cleaned up of the branches.”

After an exhausting day doing so, the couple was relaxing in the cool night air.

That’s when the image appeared.

“I was sitting on the picnic table after we finished stacking the wood,” Sherri said. “I looked over at the cut end of one of the limbs and thought I was seeing things.”

She was — an image of a childlike figure. She saw a head, eyes and two legs.

Her husband saw it, too. Both took photos with their cell phones in case the image disappeared.

Then something even more startling happened. The couple noticed the figure had not just arms, but also a halo and wings.

“The more I look at it, the more I think it’s an angel,” Sherri said.

John Hott, site superintendent at Kickapoo State Park, said different natural factors could create such a design or image.

“It could be sap seeping into the pattern of the growth ring, or it could be environmental factors,” he said.

When Hott learned the design became easier to see when the wood was wet, he suggested varnishing the piece.

“That will bring the grain out,” he said.

Like most people, the Conklins have had some rough moments in their lives.

But things have been better lately, and Sherri expects them to improve even more.

“I feel like I have a guardian angel now,” she said.