When the wind blows hard she sheds her bark. We find cylindrical chunks of her aged skin scattered over the yard. Her white under-wood is showing, exposed for woodpeckers to feed on. She’s naked of dignity and clothing. When I pick up the bark I look up at her bald branches and they are still reaching for the sky, like a nursing home patient standing alone buck naked in the middle of a linoleum corridor with her arms up in surrender and her clothing at her ankles.
Her numbered days are growing as thin as her foliage. The tree service will come for her in the fall.
It’s come as quite a surprise really. Maybe it was last year’s drought and extreme heat that did her in, or put her over the edge at least. Last spring I remember thinking that the leaves were a little delayed in coming out. Maybe it took some extra effort on her part. But once it she leafed out, she looked healthy save for a few bald patches. But this year no leaves in April or May. In June a few baby leaves have appeared in patches. Poor thing. That’s all she’s got left in her.
So as we do with all loved ones as they near the end of their life, I’ve been remembering her younger days. We moved in during the summer; that first fall I was belly-full with baby and we were amazed at the color she produced. A silent symphony in flaming reds and oranges and yellows. We determined it must be a sugar maple. We raked the bright fallen ones onto large tarps and dragged them out to the front street. I remember telling my spouse, “Next year we can plop the baby in the big pile and take her for a ride while we do this.”
But when I looked at the pictures from this time, the crown of leaves isn’t as robust as I remember. It makes sense now. She’s been declining gradually all this time, these five years. But up until this year, she was still an aging beauty and having met her so late in her life, we didn’t think much about how old she might be. What I wouldn’t give for those lovely leaves this fall. I wish we’d known last year was our last time to play in those fiery piles!