Eighty Six Rings

In that latest Nor’easter some big trees in our yard came down under the weight of wet snow and high winds. Root structures long in place seemed to give up. Towering woods succumbed to gravity, making no sound until impact with the ground. In other instances, trunks snapped, unleashing a domino effect, adding to the violence of that day. A giant pine hit the house. We were inside at the time. That fright brought a decision to take down possible dangers in future storms, including an enduring presence and trusted climbing companion- the Hemlock.*

*Hemlocks in North America are suffering from a blight due to foreign invaders, the Woolly Adelgid. A sea of poppy-seed sized bugs feast on needles, lay eggs, and feed on the sap. On the East Coast all Hemlocks are at risk. As is often the case, threat to the species is especially felt by loss of a single specimen we have contact with. The tree in our yard stood over seventy feet tall. I know because when the working end of my rope was slung over a top branch and doubled on the trip down, it rested flush with the floor of the forest.

I want to mark the loss of a steady confidante that offered hours of peace, inspiration, and energy. The tree often gave solace that people failed to offer. Clambering up and hanging out in its spacious branches brought unique gifts, like relations with the neighborhood barred owl, who’d (pun?) often float over and perch nearby for a staring contest. The owl always won. Maybe she was guarding her nest, maybe issuing a challenge by her call, “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you..all ” A valid question. And potent reminder of the transitory nature of everything, especially friends we might sometimes take for granted.

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