Goodbye to a Giant

Tomorrow a huge oak tree in my front yard is coming down. A majestic sentinel, it has stood guard between the street and my home for at least one hundred years before we moved here many years ago. Every year little spring beauties carpet the ground underneath its wide-spread branches, still unleafed after the long winter. A whole tribe of squirrels occupy it – an apartment complex for the bushy tailed. It is the tallest tree in the whole town, an outstanding picture of strength and solidity. From my vantage point by the bay window I have delighted in the broad canopy of green. Until now.

It is big. The first twelve feet up are four feet wide; the next fifteen feet are three feet across and it goes up from there. Thousands of pounds of solid oak stand there, and they are all coming down.

Three years ago it was that I saw a whole portion of the tree with leaves turned brown, hanging lifeless. What? What happened? Call the tree man! He came back to earth after scampering way to the top with pictures of what he found. A large vertical crack was clearly visible, indicating a hit by lightning, he said. Trees do not survive beyond three years after a hit, he said. “You will lose that tree,” he said. Then I remembered the angry storm which had crashed around us and an arrow of lightning cracking over our heads. Alarms were set off that night; everyone shook from the power of that bolt. We did not know it was the enormous oak that had been hit.

For many people that is not a big deal. For me, an incipient tree hugger, it was devastating. Each year since, I have watched as more and more of the tree succumbed. To lose a tree is to lose a living thing of great value. The beauty, shade, protection and habitat are part of that, but something else, hard to quantify, adds to the sense of loss. That tree has been part of years of history, has experienced ice, snow, sun and yes, lightning. It has traveled around the sun for at least two human life times, with good times and bad recorded in its core. Saying goodbye to such a wonderful living thing is like losing a very dear irreplaceable friend.

Yet replace it, I must. In my economy, when one tree comes down, at least one new one goes in. The best replacement, I am told, is no bigger than 2 inches in diameter with a huge root ball. This will give the new tree a better lease on life with faster growth later.
Two inches? Eight feet tall? That is the size of my lamp post, fr’evens sake. Sigh.

Tomorrow, the saws, the crane, the bucket trucks, the pick up trucks will all be here. And I will be standing by watching the end of a beautiful relationship. Somebody pass the tissues.

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The Squirrel

The Squirrel

 

Above the splatter of the
fountain, a continual ‘soosh’ of wind is moving the leaves.  I wonder, is there any wind song if there are
no leaves to dance?

 

Restless, restless, the oak
branches, the pine across the way – at times the wind sound crescendos and as
quickly softens to a whisper.  Low
pillows of gray white clouds pass by steadily, ships at sky-sea.

 

A squirrel hops up to a
comfortable perch on a fence post – the last post before the space where fence
section was removed this winter.  Munching
on his dinner, he shows no alarm.  How
can he know, as I do, that the hawks are back and will soon be feeding their
young with tasty squirrel meat?

 

A furry finial, he waits
motionless now.  Does he wonder why the
gap in the fence?  Why his “highway” has
an eighteen foot interruption?

 

It had to be removed, you
see, for the machinery, tree removal machinery, to have access to the yard next
door.  Men came and hammered down the
fence.  Men with ropes and tackle and
chain saws.  It is their business, taking
down fences in order to take down trees.

 

The largest oak of all is
gone now.  Home to squirrel and communion
of birds, it is gone.  The four foot wide
stump which remains would be a far wider place to eat his dinner, wide enough
to sprawl in comfort.  But he never goes
there.  It is the fence post he prefers.

 

Did he cry as I did when his
home came down?

 

Men with saws, hawks with
claws, they all are part of squirrel’s life.
Hazards are everywhere.  So he
eats, and rests, and listens to the leaves dancing with the wind.

 

6/25/2006

I wrote this last June while still in mourning over the deliberate removal of a large oak tree in what had been my back yard before I built my new home next door.