It happened last week, a week ago today. The crew came and cut down our tree. The Ash tree. She had been in front of our home for as long we’d lived here. She was here before we moved in, before the kids were born, and before we got Ivy. She shaded our front lawn without fail, never complaining. I’d raked her leaves for 22 years, I’d trimmed her branches – before she got too tall, and then, she got sick. I didn’t notice at first but this spring she didn’t leaf out along with the other trees –the maples, the oaks, the willows, and others. She had always been a late bloomer and the first to shed her leaves in the fall. But, when she did leaf out she looked sickly; a green branch here, a green branch there, interspersed amid many sickly dead grey branches. Then the crews came, first with their paint marking other trees in the neighborhood, they left a faint red dot at the her base. Then they came back with their ropes, saws, grinders, and trucks. They had many trees to cut down – we counted over seventy stumps in the neighborhood. Ours was one of the last to come down, but she came down anyway. The stump is still there as a reminder of where she once stood. This morning, I looked closely and I could see the stump sending out a couple of shoots in a desperate gasp to survive. It’s too late, our tree is gone.
I should have known that she was in danger, but I missed the signs. This spring the signs were obvious – dead branches, scaring on the bark – evidence that woodpeckers were visiting and feasting on the bugs that had invaded the tree. We had heard warnings about an insect that loved ash trees, but we didn’t notice, until it was too late. The insect was the emerald ash borer and it came from China in the early 90s. It has been implicated in the deaths of millions of trees across the Midwest beginning in southern Michigan. Our tree is just one of its latest victims.
The crew arrived midday. They roped her and tied her up. They made the first cut, then a wedge, and then the final the back cut and she began to fall. Before the crew cut her into smaller pieces, I counted the rings. Some were narrow, some wide, when I got to twenty-two, I paused and then continued. I counted forty-one rings. The house was built in 74′ or 75′ and the tree was planted in the parkway. She’d grown in, covered the road and shaded our front year dutifully for over forty years. She’d been a home for countless birds and even a squirrel’s nest. Now she is gone.
We have other trees – mostly maples, and another ash in the backyard. They provide shade from the sun in the afternoon and keep the deck cool from the summer sun. My son as strung a hammock between two maples just off the deck. It is his secret hideaway and when we need him, he can be found there resting and being a sixteen year old.
Our tree’s demise reminded me of a poem I read as a child. It is aptly titled “Trees” and is short. Joyce Kilmer wrote it over a hundred years ago. It has endured much like the trees that inspired it.
I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
Joyce Kilmer (1886–1918)
I’ll miss that tree. I am already thinking a tree to replace it. I can suggest, but B has the final say. We have other things going on so it will have to wait.
Yes, only God can make a tree. We can plant the seed or seedling and water it, but only God can make a tree. It’s our duty to protect it.
Before the crew arrived last week, I took photos of her. O and I watched the crew prepare her, and then begin to cut her down. I took the photos and created a video of her final moments. It’s below.
Today is going to be great day, much better than last Friday, when the crew came to take our tree. The kids are at camp – W is at wrestling and football, O is at band camp – it’s her last day and there is a concert at noon. She’s got a birthday party this afternoon and softball game this evening. We win and we keep playing, we lose and the season is over. The kids are busy and so am I. Yes, today is gonna be a great day, possibly the best day ever. So, I’d better jump up, jump in and seize the day. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, one project at a time, pausing to think about where I am from time to time.
What makes you stop and think or has made you stop and think lately?