I love the trees on our street. They are mostly maple but there is also chestnut, birch, oak, magnolia, and other favourites. Each year I capture their seasonality on a particular day: April 4th for their spring awakening and October 4th as they transform and shed for winter. I love watching how each comes into the seasons in their own time (just like us!)
I have sensed for some time that the maple tree in front of our apartment balcony was ailing. More and more of its branches were quiet in Spring, neither budding nor leafing. More and more of its bark was falling off. Mushrooms and fungi were growing on the thicker limbs and trunk. I started to spend time with the tree, listening to it, feeling its energies, and sensing it was coming to the next stage of its life.
I was grateful for the tree, and told it so. I enjoyed the shade it offered from those branches that did bud each spring, yielding an abundant canopy of leaves, and a home to many four-footed and winged creatures. The tree was so close to our balcony and I cherished those moments watching the visiting crows, flickers, hummingbirds, and other birds… and the numerous squirrels. In autumn the leaves began to send their energies into the trunk and roots, resulting in glorious colours of yellow, gold and vermilion emerging from the summer green. And as they fell, I got a sharper glimpse of the activities of the birds, insects and squirrels.
A few days ago, the city’s arborists came by to inspect all the city-owned trees on our street, and to trim any branches that were damaged or tangled in overhead wires. I sensed the outcome for my ailing friend which, sadly, manifested as I had sensed.
As I watched the tree lose its branches to the sound of the chain saw, the grief arose from my core, shedding a tear as the thicker branches slowly fell to the ground, and were thrown into the wood chipper, until there was nothing left but a stub of the trunk, protruding from the ground saying “I was here!”.
I wanted to rush out and tell this tree how much I loved it, and why I was so grateful for its existence. I wanted to tell it that its energy was diminished, but that it would find new life. As the chopped limbs were put through the wood chipper, I wanted to tell the tree that it would now support other plants and trees, continuing the cycle of life-growth-death-rebirth.
But I couldn’t. No pedestrians were allowed in that risky place of chain saws, wood chippers, sawdust and debris.
When the tree crew left, I went out to the space that still held the energy of the tree, and touched the small trunk that remained. It felt raw, its sap pulling deeper. I found a small piece of its wood and brought it home for my altar. And I shared my gratitude with its energy:
Thank you, my old and ailing friend, for the home you gave to the birds, squirrels and insects. Thank you for your spring awakening of vibrant green leaves, for your autumn splendour of gold and red, for the moss and fungi you nourished, for the oxygen you gave us all, for sharing resources with you neighbour trees, and for the beauty you gave us every day.