Funeral for a Cherry Tree: Just a Glimpse of Everyday Life
No great theory or politics in this post – just a glimpse of everyday life.
Yesterday Luda said to me: “Paul, it is time to cut down that cherry tree in the front yard(garden). It is old and no longer bears fruit. Do you want to say goodbye to it? In a few minutes I could use your help in cutting it down.” “OK,” I said. I felt this was one of those moments deserving just the proper amount of attention.
We planted that tree together in the early years of our marriage, celebrating a new house and so on. We went together to tree stores, and found a small tree said to be self-pollinating and said to grow several types of cherry on one tree. We feared it might die soon after, when cicadas really went wild in our area. It suffered a lot back then, but we worked hard to save it; it missed a year, but burst again into fruit the next year. Year after year it produced huge volumes of delicious big red cherries. (It is odd how I feel a shiver up my spine as I type this.) At difficult times I even worked to project healing and love into that little (and bigger) tree.
So yesterday, I followed Luda. I really defer to her in such things; in many ways, our whole front yard, small as I am glad it is, is her garden, as is most of the back yard now as well.
She had an electric chain saw in hand, and asked me to help brace some limbs as she cut them, and then carry them to a pile in the street where they pick up such things. (“No piece more than ten feet long, but no, please don’t cut them so much smaller. “ A few limbs she cut in half on the ground with the chain saw.)
It was a strange feeling carrying some of those branches, still full of green leaves and the appearance and feeling of life. I suppose that many people feel the same when taking a beloved trusting dog to be put down at the vet, but here... it felt more like a soft loving child, not at all dying or old (at least not in some parts).
I told Luda this morning... I felt three very distinct feelings about this: regret, acceptance and love. No conflict between the regret and the acceptance, as both had been weighed and the net result was clear. In a way, I replied to the tree as its branches seemed to return/reciprocate to me the love I had projected to it in many times past.
There were three “later” reactions, some at the time. I thought of the future of that tree, especially: would a new tree emerge from the stump? (I had seen that before with an apple tree years before in the one other house I bought in my life, in College Park Maryland, and a holly tree here.) This morning I realized: I do not even know what is the optimal height to leave for the stump to make that possible. (Curious I did not even think of any ‘afterlife’ noosphere aspect, even as energy was flowing.) I also thought a bit about a metaphor: how much am I like this tree, with only a normal length of time left ahead of me in this world? I too have had odd, conscious grafts leading to improbable fruits; will the roots left behind result in a similar species, but more wild, without the richness of what came with special effort? And yes, I had questions about the parts I cannot be sure of as a tough skeptic who did not study the details: Was this really the right time? Could the new, less visible activity of cicadas be causing a more lull in fruit, not to be taken overly seriously? Were the leaves so withered as Luda suggested? Will the new wilder tree last longer, like a cherry tree I remembered from College Park? Would it be better just to prune the higher branches rather than cut down the tree?
No wild maudlin grief, just the clear reactions and flows as discussed above.
Luda asked why I reacted so much more to this than I did when our “totem tree” (planted by nature, and already dead) fell a week or two ago, or to the times when we had the county come and cut down giant old trees in the park behind us possible threatening our house.
But actually, she and I both did go out to the back to study what happened to the totem tree when it fell. I did feel regret about the other trees, but not the same DEGREE of connections.
“Didn’t you care about the house?” I emphasized... the rational feeling (as rational as RLADP and zhengqi)... is a sum of two terms, the positive (removing the risks to the house which I did not argue with) and the negative, accepting how the balance worked out. I felt real regret, as I remember my joy at seeing those huge trees like Robin Hood’s band guarding the rear of our house when we first bought it... but did not question Luda’s judgment on the balance.
I did work hard to save many trees when the four-foot snow hit a few years ago (when Chris and Luda were in the sun in California, visiting Leon Chua). I put in lots of mundane energy and feeling then too, struggling through deep snow, and losing only that holly tree (which grew back).
As for the totem tree... it had a figure of a deer on top, and the face of a human in the middle. It was already aging, and we had a bit of an argument with the deer (recorded in this blog) a few weeks ago. Sorted out more or less by now, but no, deer are not on top.
Best of luck...