Tuesday, March 9, 2010


This past weekend, Bill carried out a dream and fulfilled a threat at the same time. For months, he'd been talking about cutting down my beloved cypress tree--my favorite tree on our whole lot. He said the roots were out of control, and they were taking over the backyard. He was tired of tripping over the roots and then banging his head on the lowest branches. He was tired of the sappy stuff that gets tracked in every fall when it drops its leaves and those funny green balls that Allyson likes to feed to Lola. Most of all, he was concerned that it was jeopardizing the beautiful patio, on which he spent hours and hours pouring concrete and laying slate tile.

As determined as Bill was to get rid of the problem tree, I was equally intent on keeping it. It was the focal point of the backyard, the place where I focused my worshipful gaze during morning quiet times. It was the shade that sheltered Allyson's kiddie pool. It was also tied with memories of family gatherings, when we all lounged in lawn chairs under its shade for a respite from the oppressive heat.

The Only Picture I Could Find of the Tree Top (One of Allyson's Shots)

Ally Loved to Swing From the Low Branches

Gradually, Bill was able to wear me down with his cold logic. Or maybe it was all those little sappy stains that I still haven't been able to scrub off the tile and wood floors. In any case, I reluctantly agreed to his plan. But then it took him forever to get around to it, and I guess I thought maybe I'd get to keep the tree after all.

So it came as a shock when I found him on a ladder out back on Friday night, cutting off all the branches with a bow saw. I went back in the house because I couldn't bear to watch.

After he'd stripped all the branches, Bill called Ethan out to help him cut off the top third of the tree. Ethan rushed outside to hold the rope and direct the trunk as it fell. When I asked his friend Tin if he'd like to help, I was surprised at his uncharacteristic enthusiasm. I'd never seen a kid drop an X-Box controller so fast, and he ran down the stairs so quickly that he literally skidded around the corner at the bottom.

I sheepishly followed him out the back door, ostensibly to keep an eye on Allyson, but I have to admit that I did get caught up in the excitement a bit. Bill was high up in the tree, perched on two rather spindly branches. He clutched the trunk with his left hand and awkwardly worked the bow saw with the other, heedless of the gathering twilight.

Ethan was thrilled by the sense of danger, but I was really scared. "That looks dangerous!" I called out.

"Go back inside with your negative vibes," Bill replied.

"It's okay. I'm down here praying," I said.

Ethan and Tin eagerly held the long rope as Bill hacked and hacked at the hardy trunk.

At last the top of the tree feel with a muted thud. I'm sure Bill was anxious to complete the job, but by now it was pitch black.

He and Ethan were back out there right after breakfast the next morning. Before they began, Ethan climbed the tree one last time, and then Allyson joined him.

When Bill announced that it was time to get on with it, Ethan positioned himself in the same spot from the night before and held the rope, providing constant counter pressure while Bill ran the chainsaw. My husband was in his element: playing with ropes and power tools AT THE SAME TIME!

In the light of day, Ethan was much more conscious of the danger than he had been the night before. First, he had Bill take a break while he locked Lola in her run; he said he didn't want her running up to sniff the chainsaw. Then he made Allyson and me back up several times until we were almost against the side fence.

It took quite a while to cut through the slender trunk. Ethan followed Bill's directions impeccably, and the tree finally fell exactly where they had planned.

Can't Believe I Caught It Falling!

My heart fell a little with it. It was such a gorgeous tree! I loved watching it grow over the past six years, until it was taller than our house.

Now, this is all that's left of it:

Bill has injected a stump rot solution, and soon he'll dig down around the roots and cut them out. I doubt that will be such a fun job for him--or Ethan, if he talks him into helping. After that, we will plant another tree. But it won't be a graceful cypress. Maybe it will be a maple, he says. I suppose I'll love watching that sapling grow. But for now, I'm still grieving the loss.


Jenny from the Block said...

This was sad! I do think it was a fun manly project for Bill & Ethan to do together. Do you think this would be considered green?!

Melissa Irwin said...

Oh dang. I'm sorry! I really feel your sorrow!!! But so glad everything was done effeciently and safely.


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