I hated to do it. I always feel guilty afterwards. I’d never have made it as a lumberjack. We had a problematic green ash tree that someone might’ve planted long ago, or which may’ve been a volunteer that nobody really paid much attention to. Prolific, although cultivating the seeds is difficult, in nature they spread rampantly. This particular tree was in a sheltered corner of the house, in an outdoor nook created by a neighbor’s fence adjoining the one that goes around our yard. (Fences are a big thing in this neighborhood.) The branches were overgrowing our neighbor’s fence, getting under the eaves spouts on our house, and providing squirrels with access to the roof, which had previously been denied them. The roots were getting into the foundations of the house and there are at least seven smaller green ashes that require constant cutting back, in that same corner.
Cutting trees down goes against my principles. I’ve had to do it a few times and I’ve never felt good about it. It was yard-waste haul-away, which rarely comes, and the sun was shining like it rarely does. It was time. All told, it took a few hours. The sky looks naked in that corner now. The green ash is a beautiful, but unruly tree. We decided to plant a scarlet oak instead. Edge of the Woods nursery in Allentown sells only native plants. They recommend oaks for their benefits to the ecosystem. There’s an optimism about planting a tree that will, hopefully, long outlive you. It can’t replace that troublesome green ash, but future owners of this house will hopefully appreciate its shade.
Digging up the yard to transplant this tree made we want to do the same thing again. And again. There’s a reason the story of Eden is set in a garden. It feels natural to be around plants, particularly those that don’t make us itch, or sneeze, and that don’t prickle us with thorns. A place of trees and cultivated shrubs and flowers. Yard work dominates my free time for at least half the year, so making it something worth the labor seems a reasonable thing to do. Trees own the planet in a more righteous sense than humans do. Many live longer than we do and give back so much to the environment. I’ll worry about our little tree. The woman at the nursery said that trees thrive by pushing back against the wind. It was more than a tree we planted; it was a parable.