I have lived in this house since 1973, and along the way I planted several trees. At one time I owned the lot next door to me, and when I sold it, the oak tree I planted in the '70's went with the sale. It was a beautiful tree, provided shade for my white garden and blocked the early morning sun that streamed through my bedroom window. I hated losing ownership of the oak tree, but it was on the far side of the property line.
The house that was built on the next door lot has had 3 owners, and just last week a fourth moved in. The oak tree was huge, but as I said, it went with the lot that I sold. Its branches hung over the new neighbor's garage. Last winter when we had the ice storm of the century, the oak held firm, but a lot of its limbs were broken and it was never trimmed.
Last week, the new owner came to tell me that he was going to have a tree service take a look at the tree to see if it could be properly trimmed. Yesterday was the day.
The tree trimmers came, and they decided the tree had to be removed. I didn't say anything when the neighbor told me, because it was no longer my tree, though I really didn’t understand why it had to be completely removed. It did hurt my heart because I had planted the acorn from which the tree grew.
Before they began the work to destroy the tree, I went down the driveway to get my mail. The head tree trimming guy came sauntering over to me and said, “I noticed you have a diseased tree in your yard. While we are here, we can take it out for you.”
“A diseased tree,” I asked, “where do I have a diseased tree?”
“It’s that tree near your arches, look at it, the bark is peeling. That’s a sure sign the tree is diseased.”
“Huh?” said I, “are you talking about my river birch tree?” I thought he must be joking.
“Yeah,” said the head tree guy, “that river birch. It’s diseased, you can tell by the way the bark is peeling, that’s a sure sign of disease.”
I very nearly laughed in his suddenly ugly face, but my southern charm took over and calmly I asked him how long he had been studying various tree diseases. You know me well enough to know that I didn’t bother listening to the remainder of his words; he lost me as soon as he opened his mouth to tell me my river birch was diseased because its bark was peeling. But I only clenched my teeth and told him “No, thank you.”
I left my house soon after, and did not return till after dark. I could not watch the death of my former oak tree. And too, I was afraid the words that were forming in my mind might become loud enough for the tree guy and my new neighbor to hear. The nerve of him, to tell me the peeling bark on my river birch meant it was diseased. Even my 5-year-old grandson knows it peels because it is growing.
This morning, I did not open the curtains in my bedroom. I couldn't bear to look at the empty place where the oak tree had once been. The remnants of sun that streamed through the covered window were blinding for the first time in nearly thirty years. Most days I have my coffee while I am wandering around in my yard, but today I could not bring myself to do that until nearly noon. I couldn’t put off the inevitable any longer, so I ventured out to the side of my yard where the oak tree had been. They had done a good job of cleaning it up, and there was nothing left of the tree except a bit of sawdust. I turned and walked back to the deck on my way back inside, when another neighbor came walking by.
“I saw them cutting the big oak tree yesterday. Maybe that’ll get rid of the squirrel population around here, and some of those birds that are so annoying.”
I clenched my teeth again and turned away, glancing as I did at the last daylily garden that I needed to put to bed for the winter. I walked over to it instead of going back inside, and my neighbor walked on his way in the opposite direction. I am not sure what led me to that particular daylily bed, I have so many of them, but there I was thinking about the mulching that I needed to do, yanking a weed or two, all the while trying to regain my composure.
I glanced to my right, something was growing right up through the middle of a cluster of daylilies. Thinking it was another weed, I moved in that direction.
Folks, let me tell you, sometimes nature gives us the best most breathtakingly beautiful surprises. There, right in front of me in the middle of that daylily bed, was a magnificent oak seedling! You better believe the tears came, but I had to laugh right out loud.
I didn’t fight the battle over the oak tree, nor did I argue with the poor uninformed tree trimmer. But you know what? I won!
I have a new oak tree, right in the middle of my daylily patch. Isn’t nature wonderful? I am so truly thankful.
The thumbnail of the oak seedling, and the photo of the river birch are my own. All other photos of the oak tree are the work of Melody and can be found in Plant Files. Thanks, Melody.
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