The Old Maple Tree

The Old Maple Tree

The Old Maple Tree

For thirty-one years the stately lady, the queen of trees along the woods at the back of our century-old farmhouse stood. Her leafy bows reached fifty feet high and offered welcome shade in the heat of summer, especially over the back porch, which later became the back deck. Her Majesty was far older than we will every know, unless we count her rings, and that’s not likely. However, estimates put her age at around one hundred and fifty minimum.

Like all things that grow old, time took its toll, along with storms and wind damage. Decades of insidious rot began to erode a crevice.

Gnarled by the years.

Gnarled by the years.

Years ago, after a micro-burst twisted and tore off a large limb, the tree man, who cut away the debris, said the tree would re-balance itself. At the time, he recommended we have the old lady chopped down. After all, there was the possibility (not the certainty) that  the tree would come down in a storm and land on our house.

Well, I was adamant. No way did the tree have to be chopped down—yet. My reasoning was that the wind’s usual direction would fell the tree away from the house. So the tree stood another decade before another big branch came down. This time the spire of the tallest branch was like a flag. And in the tree re-balancing itself this time, the top twisted so that if sufficient wind came along, that spire-branch could tip the entire tree over and onto the house.

Only what really rang the death knell for the old tree was the snake taking up residence in the rotted hollow at the base of the trunk. I dislike snakes, and especially those that find their way into my house.

So, on June 3, the tree man came and cut off the branches. At day’s end, only the trunk remained. The next day, the tree man came with his giant saw and made the final cuts. With a push from his log-tractor, the giant stump was pushed over, and slid down the hill into the woods.

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Saying goodbye, and watching the tree being denuded, then cut down to a stump was a sad thing. I know the sunlight now spilling onto the void will allow some of the Old Lady’s offspring to grow and mature—and renew the shade. There are other trees, too, that will benefit and eventually add more shade for our house and deck.

Yet, there is still the matter of the stump.

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Like previous stumps of trees that had to be cut down, it’s my excuse to set potted plants or flowers out on the stump. Or is putting color among the rubble of what had been a towering maple more like setting out a funeral spray, a gesture of sympathy at the loss of a forest queen?

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About Catherine McLean

Author, Writing Instructor, Workshop Speaker. Home Web page for Readers is www.CatherineEmclean.com and for Writers it's www.WritersCheatSheets.com *** SPECIAL NOTE: My novel, Karma and Mayhem, earned a Night Owl Top Pick Review! ***
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8 Responses to The Old Maple Tree

  1. I remember the internal struggle– call the tree man? pretend it’s not happening?– when the beautiful maple in my backyard gradually died. Full, blazing orange every fall gave way to half color, half dead branches. What prompted me to call the tree man was my neighbor’s grandchildren playing under the tree during a visit on a windy day. Nothing terrible happened, but it could have. I called the tree man.

    • Our hearts would let a tree be but our heads remind us of safety first and safety of children or homes ultimately has us placing the phone call to the tree man. Thanks for sharing.

      • Unfortunately, the tree stump may look flat but it’s slanted downhill. All those tea cups would slide, slide, slide. And considering bugs love to bite me? Well, sitting outside, on the lumpy ground . . . no thanks. I’ll stick to posies, which I’m going to buy today.

  2. kathybryson says:

    Just a suggestion, but why don’t you pull up some cushions and have a tea party on that stump to honor all the hospitality it’s given? It’s make a lovely table!

  3. Karen Rossi says:

    My daughter recently bought a home with a maple forest on her property. While waking on the path one day, we discovered three huge maples close to each other—veritable Kings of the Forest they are—so huge that it takes at least least two people to hug each of them. We named them Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar. Soon we’ll have their name tags attached to their massive trunks! Truly awesome, in the real meaning of the word.

  4. summersrye says:

    I bought a century old cottage last fall, framed by towering old oaks. I have yet to name them and already dread when their ‘day’ comes. They are surly into the century plus age range. I also have an elderly gentleman of a pine tree in the back yard, I call him ‘George’. Dear old George is straight and fit for such an old tree, but alas his natural slant is directly in line with the house. One day too, I fear, dear old George will have to be felled before he takes a topple on his own. So I enjoy my stately old trees, with all their quirks and twists, oaks mostly, some maples and pines, and watch for signs of their decay. For when I shall have to make the call to the tree man. In the meantime, countless birds and squirrels call these enchanted places “home”. Thank you for sharing your post.

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