The sound of chainsaws buzzed through the neighborhood this week as people cleaned up from a big windstorm. I felt very fortunate as I collected a stack of branches and twigs – no damage to the 2 large trees on our lot, and no damage to the large trees on the neighboring lots. A neighbor across the alley did lose a tree, but it was mostly dead anyway.
Yesterday evening I walked through the park near our home, assessing the damage. Four huge evergreens down in the grove on the north side of the park, two more on the parkway. Each loss changing the character of the space; the city has continued to plant new trees for the next generation. The loss made me reflect back to a previous, deeper loss more than 20 years ago …
“I lost a tree in the snow storm,” I sobbed into the phone to my friend, Barb.
“I think it’s about more than the tree,” Barb replied.
Of course, my grief over the tree was just an extension of the grief continuing from my mom’s death 7 weeks earlier, at age 64 from an aggressive cancer. The loss of the tree symbolic of my deeper sense of loss and emptiness. Mom was gone, and so was a tree. Not just any tree, but a tree that made our deck and patio a pleasant place for our young family. Another loss in a year when two close friends had also moved away. One loss too many.
I can remember every tree I have ever lost in my 34 years of garden stewardship (otherwise known as home ownership). Two different young apple trees lost to blight. a flowering plum damaged in a sudden and drastic November temperature drop – finally succumbing the following year, my hawthorn tree in full bloom split by a Mother’s Day snow storm. But most of all that large shade tree on the west side of our first little bungalow – split by the weight of 7 inches of heavy snow in September. (Yes, I have mentioned snow storms in September and May as damaging to trees – Denver is a tough place to garden.)
What I didn’t know at the time, was that the loss of that large shade tree made space for something new in my life. For some time we had contemplated moving to another home but I couldn’t imagine leaving our first little home. Our 2 bedroom, 1 bath home was bursting with two active children – a boy and a girl – who probably couldn’t share a bedroom forever, although I knew that generations of families had been raised in these little bungalows. There was so much I loved about the home: the stained glass windows, the built-in buffet that had never been painted over, the large deck and patio we built ourselves – to extend our living space outside under the trees.
I couldn’t imagine ever finding another home to love – until the tree was gone, and our big deck and patio were much less appealing. I was ready to let go. The next year we moved into our current home. I still miss the stained glass and the built-in buffet. But letting go of that home meant I had space for new relationships on a different block – which now more than 20 years later are old relationships with neighbors who are friends.
Sometimes loss can make way for new growth – but it’s always hard to see that when staring at the loss.
Yes, I’m sad for the trees lost this week in Denver. And I’m hopeful that new trees will be planted for new generations in our city.