Madison Monday: The tree next door

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Last Thursday, the tree service came to take down the big pine tree that stood beside the church next door. We knew it was coming. My husband was outside on the day they came to check it out–to make their final decision. “I think they’re going to cut that tree down,” he announced when he came in the door.

Whether the tree was there or not didn’t matter much to our lives. It didn’t provide any shade for our house. It wasn’t dropping things on our car. Its roots weren’t destroying our foundation. It was just standing there, it’s heavy branches dark against the white wall of the church.

When we got up Thursday morning, they were already there with their chainsaws. One guy climbed up the trunk and started cutting off the branches. I settled in with my morning tea to watch. This will be interesting, I thought.

He moved farther up the trunk, and it was like a lamb being shorn, exposing the tree’s bare trunk. It was naked without its branches. It hit me that I was watching something be destroyed.

ringsOn the ground, they picked up the branches and fed them into a wood chipper; there would not even be the nuisance of all the limbs to deal with afterwards.

It didn’t take long. They started around eight and by 10:30, they were done. Every last bit of the tree was gone. They raked up the sawdust and ground the stump to bits. Now there is just the blank, white wall of the church.

Most of the windows in our house face the yard and the church, and eventually, I had to turn my back. Wash the dishes. Make myself stop thinking about what was happening outside. I heard the jarring thud when they brought the heavy trunk down. I felt guilty. Implicated.

I was struck with the urge to go outside and be with the tree in its last moments. I wanted to hold its hand. I thought at the end there should be someone who felt its loss. Someone who would not blind herself to the fact that it was a living thing. I thought there should be a ceremony to perform–a ritual for the death of a tree.

In two and a half hours they destroyed something that took decades to grow. Just another job. Just another tree.

It’s not that trees should never be cut down. It just doesn’t seem like it should be that easy.

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