Sunday, October 16, 2016

What Happens to An Unloved Tree

The other week I felt a moment of profound sadness for a tree. This is rather uncharacteristic of me, because while I like trees, well, I don't always notice trees.

During autumn, around my birthday like it is right now, I notice them in their daring "look at me!" tantrums of color. I notice the leaves that get embedded in the rug at the front door, stuck wet to shoes hastily shrugged off. I notice the tree on the tree lawn of our house, with its huge branches that could break during a storm and crush a car below. But this particular tree, on another part of our property, I'd really never bothered to notice before.

It is/was wedged between our garage (something else I barely notice, as it is not wide enough to accommodate a car) and the fence that belongs to our neighbors and their garage. Per the survey done on our property during last year's renovation, it is/was definitely our tree. But given its location, a few feet behind where one could easily walk and the fact that it was just so large, it somehow just became background.

Over the summer, "my" car, our SUV, got less use while the kids were both at camp, and I took to parking it at the end of the driveway, near the tree. But then when I did go to use the car, I'd find it covered in bird droppings and other debris from the tree. After this had happened several times, I finally looked up and saw it, really saw it. In the middle of the summer, its branches were completely bare. The tree was dead, and based on the woodpecker activity, probably rotting away quickly.

My unloved tree--almost too big to fully fit in the photo
It took a couple of months for us to bump "tree removal" to the top of our schedule. Spending a four-figure amount just to get rid of something really didn't appeal to us, but it was the responsible, adult thing to do. It would have been worse for us to wait and see what the winter would bring, likely broken tree limbs and destruction. So on a Friday morning, a very brave man, in a bucket raised high into the sky, cut down the tree.

Coincidentally, both Hannah and Max are studying trees at school. Trying to appeal to seventh graders, Hannah's science teacher told the kids that they might some day impress love interests with their knowledge of trees (the kids were #notimpressed). Hannah had a leaf project where she had to gather, research and document a large variety of leaves from trees she found locally. They needed to be local trees so that they could be identified, so she was specifically told not to go to Arnold Arboretum in Boston, as they have trees from all over the world there. So of course that's where Max's class is going on a field trip. He's been learning about how tree trunks get their rings. And I can't help tying all of the stories together, as fifteen years ago, *I* was the one being romanced and getting a new ring in Arnold Arboretum. Well, Marc proposed to me there, under an unidentified lilac tree, though my ring wasn't ready for another couple of days. But it was the beginning of trees being special to me. We followed up with a tree on our ketubah (Jewish wedding license), and trees created at Hannah's and Max's Hebrew naming ceremonies, and more since then.

So you can see why I felt so sad about this long-neglected tree that had been right there, unnoticed by me for the last ten years. I only seem to notice special trees, and this wasn't one of them, until it was about to be gone. Only when it was about to be gone did I bother to see just how beautiful it was.