The Big Maple—Saying Good-by

The truth is, cutting down the big Silver Maple in the backyard is much like putting down a wonderful old dog. So many thoughts run through our minds many of them more complex than dealing with a suffering canine that has simply worn out.

The tree, now incredibly massive, was probably the result of a planting, on purpose or voluntary, at the same time the home was built over one hundred years ago. Through time, it has had a cable placed to hold its three trunks upright and had numerous cuttings to prevent it from tumbling on all-too-close houses. It is a monster that has taken over the backyard. Cutting it back has only encouraged it to throw out more lean and hungry branches that shoot skyward at ten feet a year.

Then, there are those historical pictures from the turn of the last century that clearly demonstrate that after white man’s short presence, there were few trees standing. That can give pause to a person willingly planning on taking this old brute down. It came from a time of few trees and now I am about to put it down.

It is a Silver Maple, a weed in the mind of some tree elitists, but it has cast much needed shade, provided the home for numerous generations of squirrels, a host of birds and generally added to the flavor of the well-treed community.

To top it off, yesterday a pleading came over the airwaves to grow and protect trees for they are the one thing capable of removing the CO2 from the atmosphere—and it did it on a day when it was eighty-six in September, twenty degrees above normal. But, the tree is mature and its apparent spot-rotting branches hang to some degree over two houses and should it fall, the price to pay would be painful and unappreciated.

Last year the crease in the trunk grew a flush of mushrooms, usually a sign of greater problems and possibly the hollowing of the tree. The hired cutters reminded me, and not out of need to work, that the winds in these warming years have also been more extreme and one good blow could be the old maple’s last. We have had visions of being skewered by some extended branch maybe as a way of taking vengeance for all the environmental harm we have caused in our brief time here on this land.

This year the tree I commonly punched in seven sugar taps, no sap flowed. There was virtually none as if to tell me the game was over; maybe the tree was tired and wanted a last unmolested spring. However, the summer leaves grew strong with the flood of rain.

This same tree also has cast its long shadow on our garden making the broccoli grow long and rangy and the peppers ae struggling to find the sun they deserve, at least that is how they put it. The sunflowers are eight feet tall. The raspberries are so long in branch, they droop and in the closeness to the ground rot before we can turn them to winter’s jam.

That long shadow, particularly in the morning also blocks our solar panels and keeps the batteries wanting. While we try to help the environment with power from the sun, the Silver Maple, the one feeding on carbon dioxide, is hindering our effort, almost slapping our collective hands trying to say something.

While not one to wallow in guilt, this damn tree is rattling my cage. But like the old dog who still may be trying, the maple has to be put down. It has had a good run, there is still some syrup in the cabinet from years past and the wood will heat the house for a couple of years. Like the old fireside dog, it will be replaced possibly making a story for someone else down the line.