We cut down a tree two weeks ago. A whole one. A big one. We had to. It was listing to one side, lifting up the soil as it loosened its grasp upon the earth, threatening to fall right where we park and walk everyday.
We were, blessedly, out of town when the deed was done. This had been a mighty tree. No shimmying up its spine to cut it down bit by bit. No lone cherry-picker would have worked. This tree needed BGE to disconnect the wires to our house and a crane to lower its upper portions safely to the ground.
We asked the workmen to leave the wood behind. We could use it for firewood, we said. It burns too fast for that, they said. Still, we said. This is its home. Leave the wood. So they did.
We came home to the sight of the tree, downed and defeated. This once-grand monument lay in heaps upon the ground. The land it had swayed and swaggered over now had become its silent resting place. Such is the way of trees.
It seemed astonishing, as I thought about its years, that the tree stood so long in one place yet never touched the ground that gave it life. (The roots, of course, are part and parcel of the soil, but I refer to the tree as we see it.) How strange to be so close, so intimate, for so long and never to fully touch. Did it ever yearn to reach down with its branches and stroke the grass beneath it? Did it ever have the urge to bend its straight and towering trunk so it might smell the rich soil that fed its expansive roots? But the union, the touching, came in the end. The circle is complete - the tree ends where it began.
For the first time, too, I could touch the tree. All of it. Bark that was stories above my head last winter now lay at my feet. I got my tape measure. I wanted to know the size of this monument. The trunk was 36 inches in diameter, one of the largest and oldest trees in our woods. The tree stood 100 feet high or so at its peak and was 80 years old when cut. I counted the rings, the fat years and the skinny years.
The tree seeded in the dark days of the Great Depression. It became a sapling as the country clawed its way to recovery. It sunk its roots deep as we went to war. It spread its branches high during the years of Camelot. It stood firm on this street as I - in my youth - rode by on my bicycle, chased fireflies on a lawn across the way, visited the neighbors right next door, and wrestled, as children do, with becoming myself. It knew me, saw me, before I knew myself, and before I paid any attention to it.
Now, it was left for me to take it down, and dispose of it well. If I were handy, I would make from its wood a coffee table for my living room; cribs for my grandchildren; a chair for my husband; a podium for my mother; many bookcases for my office and a desk for my work. And I would still have wood to warm me this winter.
Perhaps I can find a woodsmith to help me. That way, the tree can live another 80 years.