Coffee with Mimi: Trees grow and trees go

Published 4:34 pm Friday, January 17, 2020


By Mimi Becker

Community columnist

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Trees are environmentally necessary. They are a vital component of the process of photosynthesis. They literally produce the oxygen we breathe. I like to breathe.

Trees shade our homes and provide homes for wildlife. Their roots hold the soil, conserving water so other vegetation can grow. 

Trees are pretty and enhance the landscape with flowers in the spring and colors in the fall.

I’m not quite as excited about cleaning up after trees in the fall, but it’s the price I am willing to pay to have trees.

I appreciate that trees serve an economic purpose. A wide variety of trees are the source  of paper, lumber, medicines, firewood, nuts and fruits. And maple syrup. Trees can be responsibly cut and replenished for the next go around. Trees are also tourist attractions. Consider the California Redwood National Forest or the Great Smoky Mountains.They wouldn’t be the same without trees.

I am always disappointed when a tree is cut down to make way for some other human activity, like a house or a straighter road. Yet, they are and I seem to go along with it as I am on the road, or in the building.  

Fact is trees also fall all on their own with assistance from nature. Take a spin out into the rural areas and just look at the forest around you. There are trees on the ground everywhere without a bit of evidence of human activity. Smart landowners know there is a beneficial balance between harvesting, cleaning up and leaving alone.  

Honestly, humans throughout history have cleared land for living and development. The key is to be smart about it.

I’m just guessing, but many of the big old trees in town weren’t always there. Home owners built and planted. Sometimes, they worked around trees, too.

Just like in the forest, town trees fall all on their own with a little help from nature. It happens when you don’t expect it. I mean, after, all, our tree(s) were here when we moved here. I remember these trees when I lived in this town as a teenager.  

The driveway to our house curves around a great big tree. I imagine that tree was planted and thriving and the early home owner just worked around it. Our house is almost 100 years old.  Every picture we have ever seen of our house included that big tree. I have struggled with the fallout from that tree. Mostly the tree wins. I see the tree out our front windows and from the side porch.

  Last weekend the tree fell.  ll of it. Upended from the root ball to the top. All in one piece. Straight across our yard onto a neighbor’s driveway. We weren’t at home and, as neighbors reported, no one heard a thing. That big old tree went down with not a whimper. I had been concerned about the wind during the night, but in the morning all was well, accounted for, in its place. 

I decided a walk to my meeting would be a pleasant experience after a couple days without exercise. 

My husband got a call from the neighbor who had just gone out on an errand and returned to encounter his completely covered driveway. Our drive was totally clear and navigable as the tree considerately went down on the only line which would cause the absolute least damage to life, limb, structure or power line. Unless you count the sweet little flowering crab in its path.  The neighbor’s drive, when uncovered, was unscathed and the swing in the yard which we salvaged from another property, didn’t feel a stray twig.

As I was at a meeting, and had turned off my cell phone, I didn’t receive the message to come home, “The maple tree is down.” I was on foot and headed in the opposite direction when I thought I would check in. Can’t be all that bad. I calmly strolled home.  

Rounding the corner on our block, the carnage was not yet obvious. I was nearly in the yard before I got the full effect.

We were lucky. No one injured. No damage to structures. Just  big, old tree mess to clean up. If our tree was down in the wind, surely other homeowners were in the same boat.  It would take days to get it cleaned up.  

We were lucky. A great tree service was contacted and right on the spot. The neighbors’ drive was the first priority and it was duly, and amazingly, spic and span in short order as the crew worked in the pouring rain with all manner of equipment.

The majority of the huge tree still lay across our yard, root ball in the air. Sunday passed with the tree a reminder that our house and yard would never look the same again. Monday dawned. I passed the tree going out in the morning.  I imagined what I might plant in its place and how puny that little tree would look in comparison.

By the end of the day,  it was gone. A clean slate. Starting over for the next 100 years.