Fall Before the Fall

We have lots of pictures of this amazingly big old tree in our backyard over the years, and this is one of the last. Of all the things people have lost this year I guess the demise of an old tree shouldn’t feel catastrophic in the grand scheme of things. But I miss it and I’m sad that it’s gone.

It was a Manitoba maple – the kind with all those annoying helicopter key seeds – and it had three trunks. Apparently as the trunks grew they put increasing amounts of pressure on each other. We noticed the leaning on the right side was getting worse, and we had discussed getting someone to come and trim back the top to make it less heavy, but these things have a way of slipping down on your list of priorities. After a couple of days of very high winds in which the tree swayed a lot more than seemed normal or safe, things quieted down to a peaceful calm evening. And that’s when the middle trunk split from the others with a resounding cracking noise and settled on the garage roof.

The many leafy branches actually cushioned the fall, so the shingles and the eaves troughs weren’t damaged. The roof didn’t cave in on our vehicles. Most of the weight was in the lower trunk and it stayed below the roof line. Our son and our neighbour on the east side of the house got up on the garage roof with chainsaws and were able to cut everything back and get it all off the roof, without falling off themselves. Watching them work was the most stressful part of this whole adventure for me.

Our son put those heavy duty yellow straps around the remaining trunks to keep them stable until we could get professional tree-type help. Our neighbour on the west side expressed concern, but I think it had mostly to do with the prospect of his fence being damaged or destroyed. And he might also have been quietly celebrating the demise of the tree that filled his yard up with maple keys and dead leaves every fall. Conjecture on my part, but I think I’m right.

We carted a lot of the branches and debris out to the front yard so the driveway wasn’t blocked. I called what turned out to be a great tree servicing company. They sent someone around the next day to make an assessment, and the day after that their crew arrived to take the tree down.

I’m still not used to the emptiness. Our bird feeders are still sitting on the barrier between the two levels of the lawn. We have a bunch of firewood we have no real use for, but I think cutting and piling it gave W something that, for him, was a comforting thing to do. A few nights after this the wind came up with a vengeance again and woke me up. I looked out the bedroom window and was surprised to see the moon and the stars in the night sky, no longer blocked from view by all those towering branches. And it was nice to know there was no longer a need to be concerned that the tree might blow over and kill us in our beds. Well I don’t think it was actually tall enough to damage the house, but nighttime fears are rarely rational.

Today is another beautiful, sunny and windy fall day, with a gazillion yellow leaves flying across our front lawn and dancing down the street. The back yard is pretty much leaf free.

In the spring I plan to visit a greenhouse and do some research on what we can plant back there. It won’t be another maple. It will be something that doesn’t get that big and is easy to maintain. That little pine tree on the right that popped up from nowhere a couple of years ago has really shot up this summer. But I want something with leaves that change colour with the seasons and eventually fall off and blow around like crazy things in the wind. (And maybe annoy the neighbours as an added bonus). That’s what makes autumn a beautiful thing.