Early, early the cranes arrived, the chippers and trucks, the team with chain saws and helmets and steel toed boots.
The tree was dying. Silver maple, swamp maple, weed tree. Tree that anchored the front yard, shaded the house in summer, that rose from a sea of day lilies and Siberian iris, sent whirl-a-gigs flying each spring, papery thin leaves each fall, tree that sheltered squirrels in its knots and crevices, birds in its canopy.
Tree that spread its roots under the driveway and pushed up cracks and humps in the blacktop, that outgrew its suburban landscape, just like its cousins the yellow pines and the spruces that line up across the back of the yard and tower on the corner across the street, like its brother maple in the neighbor’s yard that split in half and crashed down in a wind and snow storm, brought down power lines, blocked the road.
Tree that should have lived out its span in a forest, its canopy joining others in a network of leaves and branches, a community of green until a storm or old age felled it and the wood rotted into the forest floor, became dirt, a seedbed for new trees.
The tree was dying, each year its canopy grew thinner, more small branches came down in high winds although a cable across the crutch had so far prevented a high wind catastrophe. This spring a third of the tree didn’t leaf out. Arborists came to assess. In decline. A threat to the house, to the neighbor’s house. Too big. Ready to split apart. Cable won’t hold. Imminent peril, one said.
Early on a bright fall day the cranes arrived, the team with their saws and chippers, and piece by piece, with rasping, screaming efficiency turned the tree into wood chips and log pile. Inside the house, I paced, tried to work, paced some more, paused frequently to watch out the window with amazement and sorrow, flinched with the bite of the saw. And I watched as one of the crew, I think her name was Julie, wrapped a cable around the last of the trunk and it looked as though she was hugging the tree and I imagined her comforting it before the final cut that would take the tree down to stump.