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Bony Arms and the Lollipop…

Summer has arrived in Rhode Island! The trees have burst forth with their brilliant green cloaks and canopies: fresh, resilient, and resplendent in their newness. The gardens are likewise shedding their winter’s sleep with bold and vibrant displays of color and hue, including my personal favorite – the iris.

I have been bewitched by this enchanting flower since a child. My mother (#3 for those keeping track) grew them in our house in Ramblewood. She had white and yellow, but mostly the magical purple or lavender ones. Their scent is, to me, the sweetest and most intoxicating of all the flowers. Now that I have grandchildren, I call them the lollipop flower because that delicious smell.

We had a lot more prior to last year’s construction on the house; the new sunroom went right where the best run of irises we had was located. We have 4 or 5 blooming in just one area of the yard now but I hope to change that over the next year or two. And happily, they are the purple ones!

But as I look out upon my yard so full of a thousand and three shades of green, there are holes; gaping tears in the fabric of nature. I saw it coming; held my breath for 6 or 8 weeks as the different species of foliage unfolded themselves from their spring cocoons at their own time and pace. See – we had a horrendous year of gypsy moths last year…..which followed an even more horrendous year the year before. They (the web experts on this sort of thing) said “your trees are fine after a gypsy defoliation; they’ll rebound the next year.” But the second year? “Oh, they can handle no more than 50% defoliation on the second year; more than that and you’ll likely lose them.”

And we had nigh 100% both years.

So I waited, all spring. Hoping. Oaks are the last in my yard to show their color so when the other trees began showing, I didn’t worry. Much. But then some oaks rolled out their finery and some, didn’t. Six to be precise. Six massive mighty oaks, four of which I would deem part of the landscape, as opposed to just being “part of the woods.” All gone. Bare skeletons stabbing at the air amidst our sea of green. The starkness of the loss can’t be overstated; not just open holes in the elevated emerald meadow, but harsh bony reminders of the former splendor.

By now, dear reader, you are surely thinking I’ve gone off the deep end here. “They’re just trees Bob”, “get over it – more will grow.” Agree and agree. But consider all of this, beyond the aesthetics of it; the totality of it. I have four very wide and very tall dead trees around the house, all laden with massive branches, each one of which is losing their flexibility and strength as they become more brittle every day. Branches will fall; big branches will fall in a big way. Granted, it will take a year or two before they become truly worrisome, but a future threat. And beyond the branches, the trees themselves. A big threat to the house or the shed or even the playground equipment.

So at some point they have to come down. A single tree that size will take me several hours to drop; probably 15 minutes of actual chainsaw work and 3 or 4 hours of pacing around the tree and fretting over the placement of the cuts and where it will actually fall. Then once down, easily a day or two to remove the limbs and clean up that mess. Then another 2 or 3 days to cut the trunk into movable and manageable pieces. So all that times four. And I am not as young as I used to be, so factor that into the time equation.

And of course, the stumps; hulking round remnants that are miserable to get rid of and serve no use or function if left. I’ve always thought about carving a stump into a high back chair, maybe this time….But it is all a huge investment of time – precious summer time – that I could have spent otherwise were it not for those ravenous little furry fat worms that ate my trees!

But consider this; as in my last post where I wrote of loss and subsequent gain, this huge loss of life and limb (the tree that is, wink-wink) will come with gain. Areas in my yard that for the last 60 years or more have supported an ecosystem that needed the near constant shade the oaks provided will now see the light of day – all day. The sun will stream in and the plants that relied on the shade will transition into new living things that reach for the sky and thrive in sunlight. And we will gain pockets of a whole new balance of plant life in the yard. And that is the gain from the loss! Maybe the lollipop flowers will even spread into the new areas……

Remember also, that there is duality in everything, life included. This small example of losing my trees and gaining new flowers carries forth on a whole grander level. I too, will someday be consumed by the gypsy moths of age and one day all that will remain of me are some bony arms stabbing at the sky. And much like my oaks, I will leave a hole. The shade and shelter that I have provided to my little ones will suddenly be gone and that resulting hole in their foliage will be a mighty void indeed to fill.

But I hope…I pray….and I fervently wish that when that time finally comes, that they can come back and read this, assuming the blog survives that long, or if not that they remember this life lesson. I hope they step outside my old house and see the lollipop flowers growing where there once ivy, moss, and vines and that they see, and feel within their hearts, that my leaving brings them a whole new sunny portion of the yard of their life in which to grow and revel in beautiful new gardens. For this is truly how life reinvents itself, for all of us. We just need to see the gain through the loss. Go outside dear reader, and smell those flowers…..smell those lollipops!!

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