Next to our driveway stands a majestic tulip tree that is more than 100 years old. Its visible roots span 30 feet. Despite a yawning hole in the base of its trunk, each spring buds appear on its branches and burst into leaf. Delicate tulip-like flowers in pale hues of green, orange, and yellow give the tree its name. But this year the tulip tree will not blossom.
Tree surgeons forecast the tree's demise. I've been watching for signs of its decline, but to my delight, the tree is springing to life after its long winter rest. In spite of this good news, another arborist recommends cutting the tree down. After examining the decay in the trunk, he concludes that the tree is unstable and likely to fall in a windstorm.
We discuss the safety concerns, the possibilities and probabilities, and the cost. We are tree lovers. Standing next to the tree's massive girth, we look up at the sky through the canopy of its branches, then down at the yawning cavity in the trunk that supports this magnificent structure. We face a question that arises many times in life. Do we wait for nature to fell this decaying giant in its own time and wisdom, or do we, mere humans, intercede?
Decisions are part of every day living. What determines what to do and when to do it?
We have the might to bring the tree down, but do we have the right?
Arborists are experts in tree health, but can anyone measure life force?
With great regret we made the decision yesterday. Four men arrived with chain saws and ropes. I watched the stately tree come apart with tears in my eyes.
It was humbling to contrast the size of the tulip tree with the size of the men sawing its limbs. A family of raccoons and countless species of insects scurried from homes in the cavity of the trunk, while birds' nests fell to the ground as their host tree was methodically reduced to pieces. I honored the tree's years of selfless service: offering beauty, comfort, and shade; reducing air and noise pollution; stopping soil erosion; exchanging carbon dioxide for life-giving oxygen; and supporting wildlife.
Today I'm mourning the loss of the tulip tree, In this picture of what remains, we can look into the heart of the trunk and see that it’s hollow. Yet even with this limited perimeter of working cells, the tree was able to transport water 75 feet above its roots to nourish its highest branches.
Life functions beyond what we can fathom.