A Minor Sadness

When we purchased Chez Spit 5 years ago, it came with a very large tree. The large tree, a Colorado Blue Spruce, came with a story.

There are 4 trees on my property, 2 that  I have planted, and 2 that came with the house. The lilac in the backyard is, of course, more properly a bush, but it is so old – from the 30’s – that it is a tree now, and I prune it as such. There was a brief discussion of chopping it up, but I put my foot down, and we pruned it, and continue to do so periodically. It’s in good health, and I water it regularly. I love the lilac.

And this Spruce? Well, it’s very large. Indeed, one of my first conversations with my next door neighbour was about chopping it down, it shades their yard as well. Frankly, the tree is out of proportion to the house, it’s a water hog, stealing the water from plants, it has killed the grass around it, and it just takes up so much space.

And yet.

The tree was planted by a little boy in about 1947, and he and I share the last name. It was his arbour day tree, and while it has been planted too close to the house, it has grown these last 70 years, and it now stands around 60 feet tall. It is by far the tallest tree on the block, an impressive feat in a neighbourhood that boasts some of Edmonton’s statliest elms.

When I thought of cutting down this tree, I thought of all the summers and winters it has known, and I can hear my neighbour from down the way telling me about this little boy, now with grandchildren of his own,  and I think of how he  loved to fly model airplanes in the school field, and how  all the girls had a crush on him, and I don’t know, but it seems like this is his tree, and I am only care-taking it.

So, I kept watering it, I fertilize it, and I clean up the mess and I have pruned the odd branch, and we have co-existed. It has drawn a shade over any plans I might have had for the yard, it’s much too large to merely work around, but there you have it. Somethings exist, and you owe them a certain amount of fealty, if only because they were here first.

This last spring, right after the new tips came out, they turned red. And the spruce cones started falling, heavily. In the language of trees, this is not good news – these things are harbingers of spruce mites and gall and stress. The truth is the tree is dying. I have researched, and it is just possible that the tree could be treated successfully, but equally, it is almost at the end of it’s life. An arborist came by the house last weekend, and we have a price to chop it down.

And I am just sad. I look at it out my front windows. I want to walk out in the front yard and press my hands against its trunk.

“I am sorry”, I want to say. “But it is not reasonable to fix you, and the odds are not good, given all the things wrong with you. We must be sensible about these things, and I cannot justify the expense and the chemicals and the time, to merely buy you another five years. I have been glad of you, I have been glad that you have shaded, I have been glad of the birds in your branches and the smell of spruce. I am sorry it should come to this.”

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11 Responses to A Minor Sadness

  1. Needles says:

    Remember that saying about closing doors and oening windows. It doesn’t always apply and isn’t always right, but in the case of this tree, it fits. Take out this large tree and you will be opening a new window to what else can be.

    Could you plant a new tree in that little boys honor and place a time capsule near it with his story inside?

    Thank you for the reminder of lilac things.

  2. Needles says:

    Opening. Drat it all. Opening.

  3. a says:

    I’m sorry – we had a 7 year old Blue Spruce that got gall. We were sad but then we replaced it with a beautiful dogwood. Although I don’t think that would work for you, way up north…

  4. Kristin says:

    Why don’t you try and get a really nice picture and frame it. That might be a nice way to remember it.

  5. Jess says:

    I love trees too. I don’t think they feel the same way about death that we do.

  6. Stacey says:

    Sweet post — and sad, too. I love hearing the history of people and things that meant something to them.

    I have really grown to love the pear tree that we planed in our yard in honor of the first baby we lost. That tree has grown a lot in the past 8 years (as have we). I think someday when we move from this house, it’ll be what I’ll miss most.

  7. Kristen says:

    This is quite possibly the first time that I have ever gotten misty-eyed over a tree.

    Does your neighbor know this “little boy’s” address? Perhaps you could send him a picture as well.

  8. HereWeGoAJen says:

    Maybe you can get some of the wood from it and have someone make something out of it? Like the Giving Tree?

  9. Two Hands says:

    My grandfather, God rest his soul, was with my Dad one day when my father pulled up a little Sumac sapling. “You can’t do that,” my grandfather said, “that’s a tree.”
    “There,” replied my Dad poking it back down into the ground, “you happy?”
    My grandfather has been gone a long time now, but that Sumac, which don’t have long lives, still stands, still shades my parent’s house. When they talk about cutting it down, I wince. I love that tree.
    (Of course, ask city hall about how I feel about trees in general and they’ll tell you about a few, um, spicy messages I left them when they cut down some in my neighbourhood. Still, that Sumac is special.)

  10. Debby says:

    This is a sweet post. You will remember that tree, though, and just the fact that someone will remember it when it is gone…well…that’s what life is all about, isn’t it? Our kinship to one another. Our kinship to the stuff of our lives.

  11. Jamie says:

    I love this post. I have a habit of assigning feelings to objects that people think is a bit odd. But I have such a respect for trees. I think the Spruce has lived a good, honored life.

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