This is a tale of a tree that has stood watch upon a little hill for over 70 years. A common Red Maple, it was planted by Garner Tripp in the 1940's or 1950's, on the southern side of his hunting camp,. Garner's cabin burned to the ground a few decades later, but his growing tree withstood the fire. We bought his property in 1983, built our house a year later in pritnear the same spot his cabin had stood on, and that same maple continued to watch over our home, too. Throughout the years, its arms have cradled numerous bird feeders, swings, birds, squirrels, chipmunks, climbing children, and an occasional raccoon. In spring, thousands of its whirlybird seeds spin down, blanketing everything below. In summer, its thick arms create a cool, shady respite where the porch swing hangs. Come autumn, its boughs hold a full bounty of colorful foliage, soon tossed to the ground and scattered by the wind. And all winter long, a wild assortment of creatures and birds find food in and under the many feeders adorning its branches.
Many days over the past several years, as I sit in the porch swing, I've noted the tree is not as full as it once was. In gusty winds, large branches snap off and shatter to the ground like broken bones. The canopy of leaves is shockingly thinner with each passing year. It is a sad fact that this beautiful maple tree is dying. At first, I avoided thinking that the tree's years were numbered, but as time has passed by, I realize that this tree may not outlive me.
I reminisce of the companion tree that was lost when building our home. The excavator had dug too close to the roots of this other maple, ultimately leading to its demise a few years later. The majority of the tree was used for firewood, but I cut some of the branches into building blocks for my young children. Now, our grandchildren have recently outgrown playing with them. When the time comes to cut down this frail maple, some parts of it will be saved for memory's sake.
It is hard to picture the hole that this silent sentinel's absence will leave, not only in my heart, but in the landscape itself. The circumference of the tree is close to 100 inches, and the amount of cooling shade and protection it casts over the house, lawn and gardens seems immeasurable. The time has come to plant another tree alongside this one, to allow the new one to grow for a few years before the old maple is laid to rest.