Saturday, April 09, 2011

Chip Off the Old Block ... and Life Cycles

by Zinta Aistars

That tree has got to come down. I wish it didn't. But it is broken nearly in half, split in this past winter's ice storm, when we lost power for several days. The world was glazed in crystal, beautiful but with an icy heart. Tree after tree snapped and went down, and two in my yard. One snapped against the edge of the roof, but the other spread its upper most branches like a lacy crystalline skirt across the width of the backyard.

It's spring. I saw a robin dancing across my yard this morning. The air was warm and sweet-smelling. I'd been procrastinating getting that tree down, but it is time. I had a warm Saturday ahead of me, perfect for yard work.

Alas, that break in the tree's trunk was too high. Even when I dragged a ladder across the lawn and propped it against the trunk, I couldn't reach to the spot where the trunk had snapped, now hanging on by just mere inches.
I called my father to ask if I could borrow a longer, stronger saw. Mine was for pansies, literally, big enough for flower stems at best, and wouldn't go through a proper twig. I had used my son's arm-length clippers to snap off most all branches from the trunk, creating great piles of kindling, but now for that half-snapped trunk ...

My father has passed his days of muscled strength. I remember well when I was a girl, and he could bring a shabby garden to order. I remember planting trees with him; he taught me to respect the life of a forest. The trees have spirits too, silent spirits, and the wisdom of the ages.

This time we were not planting a tree together, but pulling it down. I wanted my father's handsaw, but urged him to stand by. After numerous back surgeries, at 83, his foresting days were behind him ...

... or so I thought. My father can't stand by and just watch his "little girl," now nearly as white-haired as he, saw through a broken trunk alone. I had it to that last bit of bark, but couldn't quite reach high enough to cut through. We pulled on the trunk instead, both of us hanging on it like monkeys, bouncing the tree, bouncing, bouncing ... until there was a loud SNAP, and the tree split through ... and the two of us were down with it, on hands and knees, the fallen tree beneath us, in the grass, laughing.

"Are you all right?" I reached over to help my father back up again. "Your back?"

"Just fine. We got it down, didn't we?"

We did. As independent as I've become, doing most everything for myself and liking it that way, I realize how good it feels to work alongside my father again. He may be stooped, he may be white-haired, he may be fighting chronic back pain, but when we sit down to share a cold glass of apple cider, our work done, I think I see a sparkle in his eye. I wonder if he thinks sometimes about being a young man, straight-backed, and planting little trees with his little girl at his side.

Sometimes great old trees come down. Storms snap powerful limbs. But after my father leaves, I walk through my yard and see the tender green growth of spring. Purple crocuses bloom in my front yard. Daffodils are in tight yellow bud. Green leaves of tulips are coming up, unfolding, absorbing rays of the new sun. Along my back fence, the greening grass is filling with the wide leaves of violets, and the little flowers, my spring favorite, are spreading through the old leaves.

It's spring. The ice has melted, the great snows have passed, the earth is warming and soft, and new life, born and nourished by old life, is making itself known.

1 comment:

  1. I have a few trees your tree removal team can tackle if you're ever in Georgia.