Yesterday, while taking some “on the cusp of spring” time in Wisconsin, I was stunned to see two men appear outside the window and begin to cut down the big, old maple tree. I had first encountered this magnificent tree more than 30 years ago, when I visited my parents in this same woodsy condo.
I hadn’t spent much time here since my mom entered a nursing home a few years ago. The pandemic initially brought me back last summer, as it was a safe getaway from the city. At the time, I worried about the tired tree, wondering if it was still alive. The few leaves that still hung from it were brown and dry. I had noticed its weary branches again this trip. The tree was still standing, but it didn’t look like it had survived the winter.
The cutting down shouldn’t have been such a shock to me, but it seemed so sudden. It was just minutes between the time the men arrived, and the tree was down. This was after it had stood for many years, welcoming and shielding family and friends while slowly deteriorating.
Maya Angelou writes about the grief that arises “when great trees fall.” The loss of this tree is bittersweet for me. It brings up memories of my Dad, who we lost 9 years ago. He loved this place. I can imagine him sitting on the deck, drink in hand, sheltered by this great maple.
Large logs now sit outside. Soon, they will be shredded into wood chip mulch. Then, they might be used to nourish the soil, to beautify the grounds, or to provide a soft landing for the children at the playground.
And where is my Dad? I trust that I have heard him in the music of the chimes that hang on the deck. I trust that I have seen him in a bright, red cardinal that circled, played, and danced around me, as I walked the roads. I trust that I have experienced him in the gentleness of the deer family that grazes nearby.
What happens when we lose magnificent trees? I don’t know for sure, but I trust that their energy continues.