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in these anecdotal,
sometimes inspiring, sometimes personal meanderings of the Heart's opening in the every-day-ness of Life...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tree Saga...

This week I am grieving the felling of an old Cottonwood tree, amongst other things. Let’s say, the felling of the tree allowed the grief that was already in my heart to spill out. Interesting how that happens. One thing, not related to other things, even though it’s all interconnected, can open the flood gates that have been in place for a long time.

I awoke Monday morning to the sound of chain saws buzzing. Upon arising and investigating it turned out that the tree men had come to cut down the neighbor’s huge, probably 80 foot high or more, Cottonwood tree some of whose branches overhung the corner of our property… The neighbor had mentioned cutting it down last year, but evidently it got a reprieve until now. I understand why he did it. Trees have an arc life, just like everything else. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end – just like humans, as well as moods and thoughts and the stories that we live by. But they also have a liability – trees and stories. :) And that’s what did this tree in; not because it was too old, or diseased, but because it had gotten so big in the corner of the property, that it was now a liability. Cottonwoods are known to prune themselves, with large, heavy branches falling off – killing whoever they fall on.

As one man climbed the tree and started cutting off the limbs, another man took turns standing on the top of our shed, crossing back and forth over the top of our 6 foot fence, and standing on the neighbor’s shed, to help in the process - some of the branches ending up in our yard; and a third man on the ground in the neighbor’s yard held the ropes to guide the large limbs down to the ground – as they swung like large pendulums. It was a dangerous endeavor, killing the tree. They had to call in the boss. Once the tree man was done dismantling as many limbs as he could, he cut the top 30 - 40 foot section off, like a mast off a ship, which when it landed, took up at least ½ of the neighbor’s backyard with its splayed branches. I could see everyone give a sigh of relief after it landed, whoosh, thud. It took up more space than they had anticipated – you could tell by the surprised look on their faces and the relief as they realized they had “lucked out” - not hitting anything or anyone on the way down.

Top of tree falling over...

I watched and took pictures from a second story window, from behind the shear curtains, trying not to be too obvious. Sleuth journalist that I am. My husband’s new name for me is snoop dog. :) I don’t miss a thing – well almost nothing. I missed the pictures at the beginning of the process because I was so worried about what might happen that I just stood in the kitchen window and watched for about an hour or so as limbs came down. The whole process made me nervous. And I didn’t like the fact that we had not been told by our neighbor that this would be taking place; that little tree fellers would be climbing over the fence, and onto our shed, and tree limbs falling down. Oh my… Run chicken little, run! My world was being invaded – or so the story went on Monday. They were just doing their job, I know – the tree men. But I like to know what to expect. As usual, life doesn’t work that way. :) Life isn’t given out in neatly wrapped packages with directions that say open this way and this will happen… There’s always something unexpected happening – But I’m not like Simba in the Lion King. I do not “laugh in the face of danger. Ha-Ha-Haaa….”

Once they got to where it was just the remaining trunk – about 30-40 feet high – which would have made a nice carved totem pole actually, they started cutting around the bottom of the tree, then cut a notch out of the base. I had stepped away from the window so I missed its actual fall, but when it hit there was a horrendous thud and the house and windows shook. It even left a big hole in the ground where one of the limb stumps must have hit. I went to the window and saw this:

And then they proceeded to cut the trunk up into circular pieces like this:

It was a 12 hour process… Needless to say I didn’t get a lot else done, being so preoccupied with what was going on next door. I am sad for the tree of course. It had no idea what was coming, or what hit it. Here and gone in less than 12 hours. And maybe it really didn’t matter to the tree. It was another form of living Consciousness, a collection of wave forms - being a tree. The form has been removed, but the Consciousness that inhabited that form lives on - endlessly. Maybe it’s only human beings with minds and feelings that create stories around these things, about whether a tree feels – I don’t know. That’s beyond my scope. But still I grieve. Now there’s just empty spaciousness where the tree and its branches used to be, as if there had never been anything there at all. I just happened to take a few pictures up through those branches on one of my twilight walks this winter. She’s the grey-brown one in the back.

Why it triggered a deluge of grief I don’t know. But it opened up a big hole in my heart that has been emptying out ever since. It seems it’s the “little things” that do that, that open us unexpectedly and allow us to feel our accumulated pain and the pain of other beings more acutely. Life is like that. We just never know when it’s going to hit… But feelings have an arc too – they wane and end, given enough time.

Good-bye Big Tree ~ ~ ~ ~ Thank you for your shade, and the leaves, that I no longer will have to rake up in the Fall. And thank you for being a perch to owls and birds; and a natural "jungle-gym" for squirrels; and the sound of the whispering wind through your leaves, making you talk. And thank you just for being here…


  1. I know this story of helplessness, having experienced similar tree falling (on a smaller scale) in the city, in adjacent yards. Yes, nice if you would have been prepared and yet this is what we humans do for a myriad of unknown reasons, our own grief and anxiety perhaps.

    and yes, your grief, I think it is always there just below the surface and the tree was a catalyst. a Zen teacher used to say "if we only knew the oceans of grief each person carries around."

    Ah, always such good work, this being willing to look at the difficult. Many hugs to you and the tree life. Prayers for you both.

    1. Yes, my grief is definitely always there just below the surface :) and the tree was definitely a catalyst - and actually gratefully so. I was thankful to be able to open to the grief and allow it to finally express - although am by no means finished. I agree with the teacher too, I think that's part of my grief! I see so much pain and grief in others that it touches my heart so deeply - with grief.

      Thanks for the hugs and prayers. I wished actually that I could have prepared the tree in some way too... Like a hug, or sage sprinkled at the base...

  2. You have said it all so well. Thank you. Something made me look up "saga" and I was surprised to see that it is related to "saw"----not the kind of saw that took down the tree, but I thought it odd nonetheless.

    Somehow, being able to grieve does seem a gift.

    1. Thank you Chris... I had no idea that saga was related to saw - hmmm, a way of seeing possibly, as in story? Stories seem to provide a way of seeing. Yes, I have held the grief in for so long that it actually is a gift to be able to feel it and express it.

    2. This entry seems to apply, too:


    3. Thanks Chris, I'll check it out :)

  3. what an event. it is so amazing and scary when a tree is cut down. they are so much bigger than they seem when growing. so lovely really that the process opened you up to your grief within. a blessing the death of the tree gave you.

    1. Yes, it opened me to a deep place of wounding within myself, and the intense grief that is there. In a sense the death of the tree has opened my heart more.

      btw - I got Donohoe's and Whyte's books yesterday. I start reading today! :)

  4. “ When all the trees have been cut down,
    When all the animals have been hunted,
    When all the waters are polluted,
    When all the air is unsafe to breathe,
    Only then will you discover you cannot eat money.”
    Cree Prophecy


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