Eulogy for an Old Friend

April 5th, 2022, 11:00am: We hired a tree service to cut down our old Blue Spruce in a 70 to 80 mph wind storm. Yes. They went up on a rope in that wind to take most of the branches off so the second half of the tree wouldn’t hit the neighbor’s house squarely in the middle.

April 5th, 2022, evening: I am soaking in our bathtub-not-a-shower, just before sunset. Looking out the window above the tub. Sunlight still catches the remaining limbs of this very old and very huge spruce tree that makes up the entirety of my view. They have only cut off the top half of the tree, so the lower branches remain.

April 6th, 2022, all day: the tree crew cut the rest of our tree in huge chunks. The pieces hit the ground audibly and each time, shook the whole house. A dismemberment. I cried a lot that day. And the next, every time I looked at the empty space where our beautiful companion tree had once filled the sky.

Summer of 2018, evening: I took the photo above, from this exact spot – the bathtub, looking through the window. If you look closely you can see the grid pattern of the window screen.

August 1989 to Present Day: This has been the view on the east side of our home since I bought it in ’89. I was a single mother, lucky enough to find — after almost two years of looking for something I could afford — a house that came with the option of creative financing.

And this tree.

The week we moved in, I met our next door neighbor, Sylvia, who had built this house with her husband in the early 1900’s. Sylvia, who had planted this tree. In her elderly-crabby-Patty way, she warned me about the weeds in my (brand new to me) yard (“You better do something about those dandelions”) and declared something about the old spruce with its definite lean toward her house (“If that tree hits my house, I’ll sue ya!)

Our very old tree has been a home for countless magpies, ravens, robins, sparrows, finches, chickadees, pine siskins, even hummingbird families and a pair of kestrels for all these years. 

I say it is “our” spruce tree, though we did not plant it. We made sure to water it every year though nothing would grow under its canopy. It meant more to me than providing a bird home. I have many memories of times with/under/ next-to this ancient being. Times I needed solace. The time we thought our dear old Sam was dying and my sons slept next to him on the ground under this tree that night. Times I looked to this ancient one for wisdom and knowledge about my life. Times I prayed, touching her massive trunk. My best friend Jen married her husband in a simple dawn ceremony led by our teacher, a Huichol shaman.

Old tree, you were a companion on hot summer afternoons when my kids and I lay in the hammock between your trunk and the house. You shaded our home so well that we never needed air conditioning. You made a ceiling in our garden, creating a context for us whenever we were out in the yard.

So, the tree service: a bunch of young guys. They’re all agile and strong. One of them climbed in that wind storm, with ropes and spikes to the wildly swaying top and tied it off to a 3/4 ton truck parked in our alley. Assurance the second half would not fall right onto our neighbors house tonight. Winds strong enough to shake our whole house and keep us up all night.

One half of this beautiful being was severed by the wind from its other half. Conjoined twins (co-dominant leaders in the tree-people lingo.) The largest leader – first born, the dominant sister – came down in the wind yesterday morning less than an hour after I told Tim about my dream of this happening. We had looked at it together as we left for work that morning — I reminded him it would fall to the east if it ever falls (he had dreamt of the tree falling on our house.) Forty five minutes later I get an email: “Your tree just fell into our yard. All are safe.” 

Heart wide open… throat tight. Relieved no one was hurt. Relieved their house was only clipped , slightly damaged. Yet, the shock of news that someone I love has died. I can hardly feel.

It will be gone next time I sink in to a hot healing tub of water. There will be only sky next time I look out this window.

We used to see only blueish green branches and a majestic tree filling this view. Today the is a trunk. Tomorrow there will be nothing but the neighbor’s house.