My husband, Lee, and I were relaxing on our patio on a hot afternoon last week, when we heard a loud creaking noise above our heads. We looked up and watched a huge limb from our oak tree fall in slow motion onto the back corner of our garage roof. Long, leafy branches hung over our garden shed and blocked access to the gate into the side yard. We stood and held onto each other for a long moment. When we walked to the front of the house, we saw that the fallen limb had twisted and torn into several pieces and left a rough, jagged shard, dangling all too close to power lines. That evening a tree service stabilized the fallen limb with a rope anchored high in the tree, but Lee and I still felt shaken, worrying that more branches would fall.
Two mornings later, we found another huge piece of the limb, probably fallen during the night’s thunder and lightning storm, lying on top of our phone line. But from what we could see among the tangle of branches, we felt so thankful that the limb didn’t do any major damage to our roof, except for mangled gutters and broken shingles at the corner. No higher branches have crashed and hit a neighbor’s fence or any of the raised beds in our side yard, including my newly planted pumpkin patch. In early July I always have delusions of growing giant-size jack-o’-lanterns, until reality sets in a month later. A fallen oak limb could crush my dream, even before the first tiny pumpkin appears.
The diagnosis from the tree service is the entire tree has to come down, after being heat-stressed and weakened for years. It stands more than 70 feet tall and, we’ve been told, is one of the taller oaks in Moscow. The tree is a playground for squirrels and a source of natural beauty in our neighborhood. Every year, on a Saturday in late fall, our four grandchildren celebrate Leaf Mountain Day, with running leaps into a huge pile of raked-up oak and maple leaves. This year they will jump only onto maple leaves.
Realizing we will lose our tree prompted me to appreciate not only the oak, but also the other trees in our yard, and the personal connection I feel to many of them. Our two Gravenstein apple trees produce fruit every other summer, and during the most recent harvest, I made and froze 17 pies. I’m still waiting for any of the three varieties on our cherry tree to bear enough fruit for one pie or a small bowlful for snacking. Our Italian plum tree blooms with frilly white flowers for only three days a year, but produces so many plums that I share them with neighbors. The apple tree in our front garden spews sour, green cannonballs, which bonk onto my head and litter the flower bed below. In springtime, though, its rose-pink blossoms are the most beautiful of all our trees, and its branches hold two hanging feeders, where sunflower seeds attract birds year-round. After Thanksgiving, Lee drapes all of our fruit trees with multicolored holiday lights, but only the cantankerous apple tree can claim the sparkly angel, swaying above the garden, suspended from a branch by an invisible line. A small red sign in our dining room reminds me, “There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.” Even when a beloved oak tree falls.
Craft Rozen and her husband will wait until autumn to choose trees to plant in the empty place where the oak tree stood. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.