“Daydreaming gently of brisk autumn days, of fire colored leaves and fading sun rays.” A.R. (October, Come Soon)
I’ve been spending the past couple of weeks cutting down a birch tree out back in the corner of our yard. It stands about twenty five feet tall, I would guess, and is mostly dead. At least it looks sick to my eye and seems to be negatively impacting another birch that stands next to it. My guess is the people who planted them so many years ago thought they each had plenty of room to branch out, but it was not to be.
I don’t like cutting down trees, to be honest. I like plants, and I like nature (as long as it stays outside – nature I mean. I like nature to stay outside; it’s too dirty to let into the house). In any case, I like to let nature take its course and fill in blank spaces the way God intended. However, this birch drops branches every times there is any breeze, so we’ve got to go out daily and police the grounds. So it seemed the time had come to cut down this tree to make more room for its neighbor to spread its wings.
The job has been pretty easy. One benefit of being retired is I’m in no hurry; as we pay for weekly green-waste bin disposal anyway, I’ve been able to de-limb the tree week by week, working my way up until now I have mostly the main trunk and a few outriggers left to tend to. As I stand back and look, I have a good sense of what needs to be done.
Interestingly, when I get up into the tree (or alongside it on a ladder) I find myself overcome by a sudden case of vertigo, and the task looks more overwhelming than what I can handle. From afar, I am the Little Train that Could. Up close, I find myself just a bit punier than what I’d like to admit to anyone.
And so the tree and I find ourselves in a bit of a standoff. While I like to think of myself as a mostly competent human being, I also know I have what it takes to win the Darwin Award every time I tackle a job for which I am not equipped physically, psychologically, or intellectually. I would love to think I can outwit an inanimate object, but experience suggests otherwise.
Every time I take a shower, I find cuts and bruises about which I have no recollection of acquiring. It is like the world is assailing me from every quarter, and all I’ve got to show for it are dime and penny sized gashes. It seems my skin is getting thinner, while what it contains isn’t. How ironic!
I know the best way to tackle what remains of my recalcitrant birch tree is to simply fell it so I can finish hacking it down to size with my trusty little electric chainsaw (which is, more honestly, a butter-knife with a cord).
The trick is getting it to land where I want it to, as it stands alongside the new fence our neighbor put up, as well as some yard decorations that are immobile, but fragile. I need to think it through before taking that next step.
That is something else I have learned to do in retirement. I’ve learned to take time to think. I know I am capable of over-thinking things, for that’s what I do. Sometimes it leads to the paralysis of analysis, but in reality it saves time in the long run, and that’s what counts.
I can remember being asked by my grandmother to run around the corner from her house to pick up a loaf of bread or quart of milk (back in the days when there were corner groceries owned by locals). I bolted out the door on a mission and was halfway there before realizing I hadn’t waited for my grandmother to give me any money.
My grandmother had an adage for everything. Her response? “Haste makes waste.” She never chastised me or scolded me. Patiently, she would allow me to live and learn, make mistakes and fix them.