I am grim today, busy altering history in way that would earn a poetic tongue lashing from Mr. Kilmer. It’s a little piece of history, about 150 years old, that sits on an even smaller piece of property. Currently, my name is on the deed. Two giant pines trees live outside my sunroom. They’re imposing and vine-covered. Raccoons raise families in these trees and honey bees housed a busy nest in the hollow of one. A beekeeper came and relocated the bees some time ago. I’ve spun in my writing chair and stared at the trees a million times—pondering a sentence, wondering if I should be doing something other than conferring with pine trees. They are not beautiful trees but are as integral to this house as its foundation.
They also have to go—or so I’ve been advised by my husband, the insurance company, and the guys who’ll take them down. That opinion I take with a grain of salt. Tree guys are like surgeons; they like to cut.
You can see that these trees are big guys. They stand about 140 feet tall and in recent years have started reaching for the sun, which forces them towards the house. I’d move the sun if I could. It’s an option that works in a novel built on magic realism, but not here. The tree man summed it up: “Lady, if they come down, they’re not hitting your house. They’re going through it.”
Pine trees live longer than most species of trees and, apparently, they never stop growing. That said, perhaps I should have engaged an environmental attorney to plead their case. But I doubt even our historical society would testify on behalf of the trees. Like a bear that frequents a residential backyard they have become a hazard.
My melancholy mindset is surely a shoulder shrug to some. The town I live in has a hobby-like penchant for tree cutting. In the summer months not a week goes by where you don’t hear a chainsaw buzz. Tree sagas continue around the corner where a small private college is situated. The campus dates back to 1865 and is marked with stately lush trees. When the tail of Hurricane Sandy blew through, one tree—a single oak—fell into power lines. The subsequent outage took days to repair—so it goes with Mother Nature. The college president, an equal force, decided all the accompanying trees needed to go too. I was awed by the indifference with which history was cut down, forever changing a tree-lined street that was only a couple of hundred years in the making.
Back to my pines. If we lived in a modern home I probably wouldn’t be as bothered. But over the past sixteen years, I’ve come to view my role here as more caretaker than owner. That sentiment extends to trees and curved brick walls and pivoting glass block doors that define impracticality, and for which the skeleton key has likely been lost since before I was born.
Nevertheless, this morning I am the tree executioner. Cherry pickers and chainsaws will remove in hours what resided here for a century and a half. Not many things last so long. I’ve posted this photo before, but indulge me, because the mirror image is about to be expunged. Because I think these stupid trees deserve a farewell. I discovered our house’s history based on this photograph. These are the pines in 1900—shady and unobtrusive. The sunroom hadn’t been added back then. A hundred years from now, assuming the house is still standing, the next caretaker won’t ever make this connection. The landmark will be long gone, as will I, the trees and me just passing through. Maybe this is why I love words so much. They are one of a very few things about which time has no say.