[Note: This piece follows the essay below.]
A red squirrel scampers up the apple tree, then hovers at the brink of a gaping hole. His brush of tail quivers - in excitement or anxiety? Two jays swoop, raucous and bullying, from the limbs of the tree to the feeder, sending a whirl of cold-fluffed titmice flying. All of this life has centered about our aging tree, yet her time is nearly past.
The shingles on the shed roof are warped and wrinkled as the apple leans closer to the house. Yet another arborist, the fourth, (we’ve sought many second opinions) has confirmed that this cutting is timely, but I’m saddened at ordering the death of this friend.
Her branches, clawed and skeletal this January afternoon, offer easy perches for tiny birds eyeing the feeders as they await the blue jays’ departure. In finalizing plans with Chris, the tree-man, I asked him to give the creatures ample warning before beginning the cut to allow them time to escape. Hands in his pockets, he smiled, assuring me, “I’ve been a vegetarian for twelve years now; I’ll make sure they get out alright.”
This old tree has thrived through world-altering changes. For a hundred and fifty years, her canopy has shaded backyard activities, from demure young ladies in linen frocks sipping fresh-made lemonade to Dave and Steve wailing “Brown Sugar” during their summer Woodstock revivals. But, after many delays borne of our reluctance and the tree-man’s busy schedule, the apple is due to fall Friday.
I will go out now to press my hands against her trunk - to give warning, give thanks, and seek forgiveness. It’s hard to imagine coming home after work to find the shed’s embrace empty.