26 Jul Goodbye, Dear Tree
Building a new house to see us into old age meant saying goodbye to a red maple tree in our back yard. Having it cut down was sad, but we felt a little better when we found new uses for it, just as we’re finding new uses for ourselves as we age.
Our tree’s history
When we first moved here in 1979, the maple stood about 15 feet from our house and it had three trunks. It was not a Crimson King (Norway maple), but an Acer rubrum that grows in eastern Canada and turns bright red in the fall.
In those early years, our children enjoyed the fort that my husband built in its branches. We also attached a clothesline pulley to it, which I learned in later years we shouldn’t have done. The tree managed to grow around it, though, and it supported years of drying laundry. It also gave us pleasure to see the tree in all its seasons whenever we looked out from certain upstairs windows.
In the spring of 2003, however, we realized that one of the three trunks of our aging maple had become quite rotten, so we had it removed. Later on we were glad that we did. On September 29 of that year, Hurricane Juan hit, and the top half of one of the two remaining trunks broke off and landed on our kitchen roof. In less than a year, we’d gone from three trunks to one and a half. The tree looked a little lop-sided, but we still loved it.
Cutting down the last of the tree
Now we come to 2017, when the footprint of the new house meant we had to remove the last of the tree. We asked for quotes from various tree-cutting businesses, but the ideal solution came when a lawyer friend who likes to climb said he could cut down our tree for us for a modest fee.
He had experience doing this, and his method was to gradually remove branches and work his way up through the tree. We made sure the grandchildren came over to see the big event, and my husband took pictures.
So, then, what to do with the tree after it was cut down. We set aside the smaller branches for chipping to use around the garden, and some of the thicker stems were cut into chunks and given to a friend with a fireplace. Most of the wood, though, was a lot of thick trunk. We had it cut into sitting-height chunks to create stools that we could use around the garden. One of our daughters asked for the very widest part to be cut into a slab for a small table top. In these ways we could honour and remember our tree.
What our tree taught me
We can’t help the changes and challenges that life brings as we age, but we can choose how we respond. The tree had held a lot of meaning for us, and its purpose was gone because it could no longer do for us what it used to. I think, though, that having a friend cut it down (rich in meaning) and finding new uses for it (purpose) somehow kept it alive for us, and that made all the difference in how we felt.