Our yard lost a friend

Posted 4/15/21

There was no counting of the rings when she came down, but my guess is that the maple was more than 100 years old. The core to the tree was gone. We were left with a stump, a ring of wood 6 to 8 inches around a hole that dropped 2 feet below the surface

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Our yard lost a friend

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There was no counting of the rings when she came down, but my guess is that the maple was more than 100 years old. The core to the tree was gone. We were left with a stump, a ring of wood 6 to 8 inches around a hole that dropped 2 feet below the surface of the ground.

We had known for years she was dying. It was a home for critters. Woodpeckers had drilled homes. Squirrels, raccoons, the neighbor’s cat found comfort in her limbs. A bald eagle used her as a lookout on occasion. She nourished black carpenter ants and a host of insects.

She was a member of the family.

All of our dogs visited her, a stop on their rounds of the yard that they sniffed carefully to learn who might have been there – occasionally finding a raccoon looking down, which was reason enough for them to try climbing. They never got too far.

The climbing was left to our children. With a long trunk, it wasn’t easy. We tied a fat rope around the first limb as a swing and a way up. It lasted well beyond the kids’ swinging days, and by the time they left for college the limb had grown around the rope, giving the tree a Popeye the Sailor Man arm. This worried Carol, who feared the rope would eventually kill the branch, maybe even the tree. I did my best to cut it free.

In the fall she turned bright yellow. Some leaves were flecked with red. There was an abundance of them that before being stripped from the branches reflected the rising sun into our bedroom. Then they would blanket the yard.

In later years, when there were fewer leaves and the wind had stripped her of smaller branches, she reached up like a giant hand with twisted fingers. She was first in line to greet the northeast wind as it raced across the open bay, and I feared that someday she might come crashing into the porch. The morning of the microburst, when hundreds of trees came down across the region, the sky to the north was jet black and I watched as wind whipped waters headed our way. The blast hit the house suddenly, rattling windows, sending furniture skating across the porch and tearing shingles from the roof. The maple rocked and twisted, a boxer evading advancing blows. Miraculously, she came through.

Later storms weren’t as kind. She lost some of her larger upper limbs and with it her balance and her dignity. Then in an overnight storm she came down, sparing the porch yet crushing the chain link fence to our neighbor’s yard.

The tree company took her away and cut down another larger tree that we were surprised to learn was equally rotted.

Last weekend I attempted to level the stump and fill the hole. I tackled the job with a chain saw, soon dulling the blade as it dug into the ground. I tried an axe. That didn’t get me far. I dug around the base to expose giant roots that were remarkably healthy. Chunks of rotted stump broke off from the stump and I was left with a stanchion that surely had held the maple for all those years.

It was solid. Even the chainsaw, its blade sharpened, did little.

Maybe this weekend I will level that final pillar and work to fill the hole where the tree stood. But the maple, home to so many, won’t be forgotten.

When she was cut up, Carol asked for a solid section from her trunk. It serves as a seat, not far from where the tree grew … a place to contemplate and recall the joy she brought to a family.

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