Ode to a tree

My home is perched on the side of a mountain, at the edge of town. In an earlier essay (Thoughts for the new year), after a devastating fire near Boulder, I wrote about fire danger in my mountain neighborhood.

There are a few houses above mine, but only a few. The landscape and a rocky road continue up to the peak of Saxon Mountain, with wilderness along its ridges and down the other side, connecting with miles and miles of uninhabited forest and mountain. Below my house is an open space where tall grasses provide grazing for wild animals, and bedding for deer and bighorn sheep at times. Three huge evergreens hug the sides of my house, and graceful aspen trees circle the structure. Fire prevention recommendations suggest establishing a perimeter around the house that would be less flammable, but I have been reluctant to remove these beautiful living creations.

This spring, I found a recommended tree specialist who checked out the growth around my house. We agreed on a plan to remove the large evergreen tree right outside my bay window, two aspens closest to the house among a larger clump, some bushes, and to trim lots of dead branches and ones that reach out toward the house. I wasn’t clearing as wide a corridor as stronger fire mitigation suggests; this was as far as I could go, barely six feet. The house is still surrounded by a few aspens, with two tall evergreens in the back. A cottonwood and a full older aspen stand closer to the road. My metal roof provides some protection as well. This was a strategy I could live with, for now.

There was life in that tree. Blue jays hopped, crows called, hummingbirds hovered, woodpeckers pecked, smaller birds chirped. (I haven’t been fast enough to successfully photograph the birds.) Rabbits hopped and deer grazed in its shade. A squirrel frequented its limbs, sometimes looking in my window to scold, and would hop down onto my deck to look for seeds. I’m hoping he hasn’t lost his stash for the coming winter. Even a neighbor’s cat once came to visit.

The branches danced in the wind, and bowed in heavy snow.

Earlier this summer, I watched robins mate in the branches of the pine. Lady Robin diligently built her nest carrying twigs, flying from the tree branches up above my window, out of sight. I couldn’t spot the nest in its branches… Oh, there it is!

I was out of town for a week and the nest was empty when I returned. Doing a bit of research, I learned that robin eggs hatch in thirteen days, so I missed them. Lady Robin was no longer hopping around the branches of the tree on her way in and out of the nest, and, with her fledglings off on their own, she had left too. I was relieved that the babies made their way into the world before the workers came for the tree.

The day before the tree cutters came, chipmunks chased each other up and down the trunk. That morning, a robin perched on a branch and tilted its head at me. Perhaps it was one of the hatchlings because it seemed small. It was as if they were bidding their tree friend goodbye, although, of course, how could they know? Inspired by Native Americans who said thank you to the animals they hunted and killed for food, I thanked my tree.

A few weeks ago, the destruction took place, so sad to watch. When the workers came, they described the big tree as an eighty-year-old Douglas Fir.

“We’ll put it down in the meadow,” one of the workers told me, indicated the open space downhill from the tree and my house. It would land on a clump of bushes, but they would likely spring back after a while. I sat on a rock wall across the street and the young man who lived there came out with his drone camera to film. The worker advised us to move back further in case there was flying debris.

Tears rolled down my cheek as they cut into the fir. I watched the tree I intimately came to know chopped up, hauled away in pieces, fed into a machine that turned it into pulp. A small ecosystem has disappeared.

The Giving Tree

Although the neighboring houses aren’t that close, I felt as though I had emerged from a forest retreat and now I’m living in a residential area of town. At first, my view seemed too open. But I’m already getting used to the new perspective. I can watch the shadow of the mountain on the other side of the house recede as sun illuminates the peak opposite my window. With a full view of the open space, I’m more likely to notice when an animal wanders in. The sunlight streams in and lights the room in the afternoon, and will warm the house in winter.

Here comes the sun…

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Published by rkrontheroad

Writer, photographer, traveler

41 thoughts on “Ode to a tree

  1. It is always sad when a tree comes down, whether in city or rural areas. After the Slave Lake and Fort McMurray fires in Alberta, a great number of changes had to be made around houses located in forests. Good on you for taking steps to mitigate fore risks Ruth. Happy Saturday. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi. As magnificent as trees are, they are a potential danger when near buildings. Last year a tornado passed through my area. Two or three trees fell onto the house belonging to friends of mine. They crushed and pierced the roof and damaged other sections of the house.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my, I wouldn’t have thought that tornados would hit the eastern cities. I think of them more on the plains. But I guess there are weather related (or even earthquakes, etc) disasters of some kind everywhere.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Must be so peaceful living out there (minus threats of the fires)! You definitely see a TON of wildlife in just your own backyard, and it seems to be a respite from the adventurous travels you do elsewhere in the world!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a peaceful place. I’m not doing those travels now, since the pandemic, maybe I’ll feel more comfortable doing it again in the future. 😟 The wildlife is occasional, although a neighbors camera has caught a bear prowling in the middle of the night this week.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sometimes it’s “safety first” that that involves cutting a tree…. but I’m sure there are stil enough trees around that give shelter to wildlfife. Maybe you can plants some flowers to compensate and help the insects 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are many other trees around. But flowers? Not me! I’m not much of a gardener and I’m at high altitude. Plus I don’t water, always trying to conserve. Thanks for your thoughts.


  5. What a beautiful ode to your tree. From the photographs it looked really close to the building so a wise choice, if sad. So many people chop down trees for superficial reasons and I love that you cherished, remembered and wrote about your tree.

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  6. I can imagine it must have been hard for you to say goodbye to ‘your’ tree…it will definitely take some time getting used to the open space. But just look at those lovely colors that sun throws on the mountain – nature is giving back in another way I presume 😊.

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  7. Sorry to hear that you had to take down one of your old Douglas-Firs as a precaution. You did the right thing though when it comes to your safety. Over time you’ll get used to the change in views. And I’m sure the animals will return.

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  8. Oh Ruth, I love your descriptions of all the life going on in and around the tree. No wonder you feel its loss so keenly. Some great wildlife photos, especially the deer. How we would love to come and visit.

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  9. Sad to lose a tree, especially one that’s home to all that wildlife. But seeing how close it was to the house I think you made the right decision. And it’s good that you have the compensation of those lovely views and sunshine to warm your home

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It’s always so sad to cut down a tree. It totally changes the character of the space. Our neighbors just lost their ash to the invasive emerald ash borer and now this half of the block looks naked. Like you, I know I’ll habituate to it in time, but it’s still sad. I’m glad there are some silver linings regarding your view, and of course it’s somewhat safer for you now, fire-wise, so that’s good.

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  11. Wow, you live in such a beautiful place! What a wonderful contribution to the tree, I would cry my eyes out, too! But then again, tree roots can eventually grow through pipes as they move toward water underground, and this can cause expensive damage to your plumbing system. In addition, trees that are too close to houses may affect drainage, causing more water to pool near the house, and creating a higher risk of mould and rot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s dry here, although we have serious winters, so mold is seldom a problem. Fire danger is. Fortunately we’ve had some afternoon rains this summer, do it’s not as bad this year (so far). Thanks for your thoughts.

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