For years my chocolate lab, Coco, and I have walked up the road at the end of my driveway. No matter how tired I feel or how busy I am, Coco will stare at me until I finally put on my sneakers, pick up her leash, and take her for a walk. I’m happy that she gets me out and walking each day, because I’m not so sure I would have the discipline to do so myself.
Beside the benefit of the exercise for both of us, we get to see what’s happening in our neighborhood, wave to the kids as they get on the school bus, and sniff all the new scents from the animals that roamed about the night before (I leave that task to Coco).
Fall is my favorite time to be outdoors, to feel the cool, crisp air after a long, hot summer, and to watch as the leaves turn from green to vibrant yellows, oranges and reds. This is their last surge of energy before their six-month winter nap.
One particular tree on a neighbor’s lawn always catches my eye. It is a huge maple, perfectly formed with an enormous trunk and branches that extend at least fifteen feet in each direction. The tree is set perfectly in the center of the front lawn, and it is the pride of the road where it lives.
Two days before Thanksgiving this year, Coco and I were taking our walk when we heard the familiar whine of a chain saw. It grew louder and louder with each step. I saw my favorite tree, the stunning maple, its leaves now scattered on the ground beneath its branches. The bottom half of the tree was bare, as all its branches had been cut from the trunk. I noticed a foreman directing the tree cutters, and I asked him if the tree was diseased.
“No,” he replied. “People are just so worried that their trees will fall onto their homes with all the bad storms we’ve had. It was hard to believe we had to take down this beauty when we pulled up this morning.”
Coco and I stood there for quite a while and watched as the man in the cherry picker carefully and methodically cut off the large branches, and the men on the ground fed them into the chipper. They treated the majestic maple with dignity and respect as they dismantled it limb by limb.
I began to imagine the very first family that lived in that house, and the decision they made to purchase a small twig of a tree so many years ago. They must not have realized how long it would stand or how stunning a specimen it would become.
I imagined the tree growing, and children playing hide and seek around the enormous trunk; then perhaps young lovers stealing a kiss beneath the leaves on a warm summer night. I could almost picture myself sitting on a blanket and reading a book in the shade of this serene giant.
I was happy that the owners of the tree decided to cut it down after all the leaves were down, affording the neighborhood the chance to see the gorgeous, vibrant colors one last time.
The day after Thanksgiving, I leashed Coco and asked my daughter, who was visiting us for the holiday, if she’d like to take a walk. As we walked, I told her about the tree, and soon we were standing in front of a large round stump about a foot tall. Stacked to the side of the stump were logs of various lengths and widths.
My daughter realized this was a sad sight for me and said, “The tree may be gone, but the family will still enjoy it as they sit in front of a roaring fire on cold winter days.” I actually felt better when I heard her words.
The storms have become harsher and more damaging during the past few years, so I do understand why the tree was taken down. I have also cut back or removed some trees that may have posed a threat to my home, but none as majestic and stunning as the one I passed each day during my walk. I am reminded of a poem by Joyce Kilmer.
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.