Deciduous Loss

a botanical tragedy reveals local arbor issues

Eric Rasmussen

have some bad news. Maybe I should have talked about it when the leaves of this tragedy were newly fallen, but the sap was still too fresh. At this point, we’ve raked away the remaining twigs of our pain, and new bark has overgrown our wounds. We are ready to turn our faces skyward and let the chlorophyll of our grief mix with the sun of hope and the carbon dioxide of the future to create the glucose of recovery.

This past winter, we lost two trees. As little time as I spend thinking about trees, shrubs, and other plant-life, I was really surprised at how upset I was. The first actually happened late last fall. In our backyard we had a huge, tri-pronged white birch tree. It was a cool-looking tree. I would sit under it and write songs, including one entitled “The Cool Looking Birch Tree Where I Write My Songs.” I vividly remember reclining under the tree one summer morning when I figured out my true passion in life, which I had previously thought was teaching or my marriage. No, tucked into the gentle comfort of that birch I understood that true happiness for me meant writing letters in mid-sized market entertainment publications using extended tree metaphors. Okay, actually, I never really communed with the tree, or had any experiences with it that were more significant than picking up the branches it was constantly shedding. One whole prong was really dead, and that prong just happened to be hanging over the power lines, so the grand old birch’s fate was unavoidable.

Then, early this Spring, I woke up one morning from a terrible dream about getting a hickey from a frantic kazoo to the sound of cacophonic chain-sawing. I was confused, so I peeked through the blinds and saw four city employees flitting through our boulevard trees taking down branches. As I yawned and scratched my butt, I remember thinking, “Oh, it’s just the city guys chopping down our trees.” Then, like a cartoon, my eyes widened and I said, “Oh my gosh! The city guys are cutting down our trees!” and my legs started moving so fast they made those motion-circles with funny percussion noises. I threw on some pants and ran outside, where the very informative city guy explained they were just pruning, which was actually healthy for the trees. Just as I was about to wipe the sweat from my forehead, he said, “Except for the maple. He’s not long for the world.” But the maple was coolest of our boulevard trees! It was the one in front of the living room window. It had this huge knot where I kept stuff I needed to hide from my wife. All the cute animals loved that tree. But, it was dying of old age. As the giant tree murdering truck pulled up and started gutting the maple, six squirrels, two rabbits, and several dozen birds lined up and bowed their heads, hiding their tears with their paws/wings.


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