Death of a tree

the culprit, emerald ash borer

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.

she had 41 rings, and there she lay...
she had 41 rings, and there she lay…

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?  

28 thoughts on “Death of a tree

  1. It really does suck when a tree dies. Especially one that has been in the family for so long. It’s like losing a family member. We had a large Christmas tree in our front yard of my paren’t house that had to be cut down after being diseased. That spot looked so vacant and sad.

    1. I know what you mean… when I look out the front window right now and it looks…. naked. Sadly, our is not the only stump and there are other diseased trees that I notice now. Bummer. Thanks for stopping by.. have a great week.

  2. I hate it when trees die. They are so majestic. My neighbor and I have a running debate going over a laurel oak that is on my property but next to her driveway. She wants it to come down because it drops limbs on her car (a totally reasonable position). I refuse because, well, it’s a tree (a totally unreasonable position). She and her husband used to have the same kinds of debates before he passed away. He told me one time that she was a lovely woman; her only flaw was that she was a tree-killer. Hope you find a worthy replacement!

  3. Hopping over from Susie’s party. So sorry about the tree — the emerald ash borer is slowly making its way north in New England and I think has been found in southern NH, so it will be here soon. All of these invasive pests are so discouraging (we are dealing with woolly adelgids, which kill off hemlocks, in southern Maine and they had a huge infestation of long-horned Asian beetles in Massachusetts.

    So to make my days count, I try to just be with the trees and appreciate them and I love the Kilmer poem you posted. And trees can be smart too — I don’t know all the details, but many years ago the oak trees (or maybe it was a beech trees?) in this area adapted to some kind of a pest and outsmarted it, by “talking” to each other). Something to do with the root system or something. I need to research it and write a blog post about it!

    Thanks for stopping by today!

    1. Thank you for visiting – that is one nasty pest. My daughter has a goldfish and wanted to release it in the lake and I told her NOOOOOOOOOO…. then I showed her an article from the Chicago Tribune – here is the link – ‘Perfect Predator’ threatens Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem and she decided that the lake was not an option…. regardless, we humans create more problems for ourselves and nature. We vertainly don;t know enough about the natural world and could learn a few things by just watching… have a great week, make it count!

    1. there is something calming about sitting under a tree or in one reading a book and escaping for a few minutes to dream about pirates and fun things all boys should dream about! thanks for coming to visit. have a great week, make it count.

    1. much of the the wood was mulched, I hope the bug is destroyed in the process. The trunks were hauled off by another company and all we have is a stump. it reminds me of Shel Silverstein’s book – The Giving Tree. thanks for stopping by… have a great week, make it count.

  4. What a bummer. I had gorgeous ash trees at our old house and our landscaper wouldn’t put them in our new one. I vaguely remember something about disease caused by insects. It has hit Boulder. There was an article in the paper about it recently.
    Plant a nice sunset maple!
    Thanks for coming to the party! Have fun clicking on the guest’s links and enjoy that jambalaya!

    1. Susie, thank you for hosting, the jambalaya was very tasty. As for the tree it is sad. It’s nature’s balance and the circle of life, very few things can live forever and we all succumb to one thing or another. The fact that it is a pest from somewhere else is frustrating, but we live in a much smaller world today, smaller than ever and getting smaller by the day. I wonder what ‘pests’ we’ve sent to China. Have a great week, make it count – but I already know you will 🙂

  5. I came over from Susie’s party to see if you wanted a dance. But now that I’m here, I just want to say I’m so sorry about the loss of your old tree friend.

    We came home to Illinois from holiday one day to find that the beloved tree in front of our house had been removed by city utility crews. To add insult to injury, sitting on the stump was a styrofoam coffee cup with a miniscule baby tree. Cause, you know, that totally made up for the tree that my kids had climbed up, swung from, and read under all those years.

    1. Trees are special and they take so long to grow and mature, it seems so odd to look out the front window or see the mail box all lonely without her companion. However, we will persevere and move ahead. We’ll select a new tree and have her planted when the time is right. Thank you for coming over from Susie’s place, she throws the best parties and has a great blog. i have been to your place a few times and enjoy when I can read. Have a great week, thanks again for stopping by..

    1. thanks for stopping by.. it was a sad day when the crew came for the tree, but we are not alone – there are ten stumps within a hundred yards in either direction… the stump grinder will come later and then we’ll think about a replacement. I had wanted to plant an Ohio Buckeye, but it’ll grow to be too large for the space.. we’ll find a tree to plant and watch it grow. have a great day and a wonderful week, make it count!

    1. insects are everywhere and just as hungry as the two legged creatures that leave behind a mess, too. My original thought to replace the tree was an Ohio Buckeye, but it is too large for the space, or would be too large when it matured. So, I’ll have to re-think….I think we’ll be here another twenty years or more… the neighbors across the street moved to an assisted living facility last month – he was 93 and she was 92 – had been married since 1946… oh my! I hope to be as active as he was and live my golden years. thanks for stopping by and have a great week!

  6. It’s sad to see these beautiful trees succumb to illness. The pine beetle has decimated millions of acres of forests in Colorado. I guess it all makes room for new growth….. the circle of life so to speak.

    1. it’s those pesky insects that eat everything they are not supposed to….I wonder what nature would look like without man’s intervention? Sometime’s I think we are too smart for our own good. thanks for stopping by.. I can’t wait for your next installment of western sunshine.. have a great week!

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