Monday, August 5, 2013

A Long Goodbye

My yard was once an ash grove, full of majestic, mature trees that graced us with their beauty and cool shade.


The largest one, a huge old tree next to the deck in the back yard, was my favorite.





Because of it, the deck was shaded almost the entire day. I used to work out here for hours on end, making sculptures from grapevines and copper.
 


For the dogs, it made a lovely, cool place to rest up after a strenuous game of  "keep-away-fetch"...



 and for the birds, a perfect spot for their favorite cafe.


But last summer, we noticed the ash trees were not doing well, and this spring they looked even worse. The tree dude (I think the proper term is arborist?) confirmed my worst fears: it was emerald ash borer, and the trees were already beyond help. In case you're not familiar with this problem, here's a short explanation from Wikipedia: "Agrilus planipennis, is a green beetle native to Asia and Eastern Russia. Outside its native region, the emerald ash borer is an invasive species, and Emerald ash borer infestation is highly destructive to ash trees in its introduced range... larvas' bore holes essentially disrupt the flow of nutrients as they rise up the trunk from the roots to the crown via the phloem (the tree's vascular structures) just under the bark. This eventually results in the death of the tree. This can take place over a number of years, and the first noticeable sign is usually some die back in the crown of the tree. The tree will usually be dead by the following year or soon after. In areas where the insect is invasive and has no natural predators, it can and usually does have a devastating effect on the local ash tree population." My trees would have to be cut down, and for the ones near the house, the sooner the better.

I was very upset.  In fact, the lush forest-like yard was one of the primary factors in my decision to buy the house 25 years ago, and I had come to regard the trees as dear friends. People just didn't seem to get it, though. One person suggested that I should, "grow up and get over it", but it's taking longer than I thought it would. I'm working on it.


When I was working on my BFA, we had to keep sketchbooks for virtually every class. Here's a sketch I drew of my favorite tree- well, part of it- the whole drawing wouldn't fit on the scanner.

After I'd finished sketching it, my daughter, who was then about 5, pointed at the tree and said, "Mommy, you forgot something."  I hadn't included the swing in my drawing, and it was very important to her. When my children were too small to get on by themselves, I used to sit on the swing with one of them facing me on my lap, put my arm around them, and swing them as high as I dared. So I added the swing, to please my daughter, and because it reminded me of the happiness I'd felt then.



We had the 3 ash trees nearest the house cut down, and sadly, this is that tree in its current condition. The trunk is 40 inches in diameter- too big to fit through the portable saw mill we hired to cut the trunks into boards.


The yard is almost totally cleaned up now; a couple of weeks ago, the whole thing looked like this.



The saw mill was pretty amazing, though. Here, he's adjusting the log to make sure it's in the proper position.




Here, the blade is just clearing the end of the log.




And here's what our garage looks like right now.


I am learning to say goodbye; it's just going to take some time...



27 comments:

  1. oh Sharmon that's hard but the wood in a few years after it has seasoned will be a treasure to work with & you will plant new trees to honour the spirts of place and watch them grow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right, Mo; thank you for the words of encouragement.

      Delete
  2. So sorry Sharmon. I know how you feel as I too cherish trees. These were beautiful. It will take time, true, but that doesn't make this any easier to bear. Hugs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kathleen, for both the understanding and the hugs.

      Delete
  3. oh sharmon, my heart goes out to you...

    xoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thank you Lynne; I know you understand. I'm working on sucking it up!

      Delete
  4. Oh noooo.... It would really worry me to lose such beautiful big trees. No wonder you are so upset Sharmon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Robyn. I thought I was the only one who felt such an attachment to trees, but I'm finding out there are many others, particularly other artists, who feel this way. I feel less alone now.

      Delete
  5. Dear Sharmon, I am all sympathy. Trees are such friends - What a sad sad loss. hugs to you, sus

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Sus- I'm finding out that I'm not alone in these feelings. It's good to know so many of my friends love trees, too...

      Delete
  6. Sharmon, Please know I share your loss. We had 3 ash tress cut down last year and one more (the big daddy) will eventually have to go. It is very sad and the whole backward landscape has changed. I am wondering if you could share who did the work of cutting the wood into boards.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hi Angie, I'm sorry to hear you've experienced the same thing with your ash trees that we have. We still have 4 to go, but will wait until next summer. the guy who cut the boards for us was very good; I'll get his name and number from my husband and email it to you later.

      Delete
  7. How devastating for you, a real loss.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is, Whitney. thanks for your understanding. I know some people think it's silly to be upset about cutting down trees, but I can't help it.

      Delete
  8. An old poet wrote about a big tree going down
    "with a great shout upon the hills",
    leaving "a lonesome place against the sky"...
    just like an old friend you will never forget.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's exactly how it is, Ken, and reminds me of the way I cringed at the fall of every tree when they were logging across the creek. who wrote that?

      Delete
    2. When you told me about the trees on the mountainside,
      across the creek, my heart was broken, too. But you will live to
      see them grow tall again.

      The poet is Edwin Markham, the poem is "Lincoln, Man of
      the People" (last four lines). For everyone who was thrilled
      by the film "Lincoln", this tribute to the great man by Markham
      may bring a tear to your eye.

      Delete
  9. loosing an old friend is always difficult... and I do understand... it does take time.. I think they know that we grieve for them... great post Sharmon.. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Cat; I hope you're right about them knowing. I just can't think of them as inanimate objects, they are very old beings, and deserve our respect and love...

      Delete
  10. trees are indeed a precious and important part of life.
    i love that you have such deep feelings for your friends who have not passed and will serve you in a new way. trees are some of my best friends.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Tammie; I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way.

      Delete
  11. Sad day letting go of these great beauties...a true loss. Having the lumber is the last gift of these trees....will you be building something special? I know you will plant trees and go on but taking in the memories and saying goodbye is important too! I planted a weeping willow and when the house sold they yanked it out...oh well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We will probably use a lot of it in the ongoing building/renovation of our cabins in Lewis county. We also hope to sell some of it. Sorry to hear about your willow; people don't seem to understand that trees are living beings...

      Delete
  12. Sharmon this is really a transition time for you.. losing a tree/s as magnificent as those are like losing members of a family. It would take me some time to adjust.
    ...especially with you being an artist and connecting with your surroundings it will leave a huge empty spot.. But the cut lumber from these ash are like a saviour... These big boards and planks are beautiful... and ash lumber, is there anything as gorgeous. take care.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gwen, there is indeed a huge empty spot, but I'm sure I will adjust. The wood is gorgeous isn't it?

      Delete
  13. I am so sorry to hear of the passing of your Old Friend(s)...and at the same time I am so inspired that you have had the forethought and wherewithal to honor her life by saving her in the form of boards that will one day surround you and your family in some way...what a beautiful tribute to a long life standing guard.
    We are currently having to face that one of our magnificent oaks may be at the close of her life...it's a heartbreaker...I can't let the thought in just yet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it does comfort me to know that the lumber will be with us. We have cut down 3 and have 5 to go, so we would like to sell some of it. I'm sorry to hear about your oak; I didn't think they had any parasites.

      Delete

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I'm happy to reply here, but may not always have time for individual emails.