We have..er, had..an ash tree in our backyard. When Linda and I got married nearly 25 years ago and bought our house, the back yard had too many trees so that some were crowding out others. Chinese tallow trees had this ash crowded out so that the ash was stunted. We had the tallow trees removed, hoping the ash would thrive. At first it appeared to work. However, after a few years, the ash started having leaves wilting in the latter, hottest part of summer each year and some of the highest branches died. Thrice we had an arborist remove the uppermost dead and sickly branches. I wrote a poem about "My Sickly Ash" back then. We nursed the tree along as long as we were able, but this spring it was obviously dead. No major branches at all leafed out. Last week we had an arborist come and cut it down and grind away the stump, leaving only a pile of wood chips where the tree once stood. We had a family of red-headed woodpeckers that made a nest in the dead branches each year for the past ten years. Every summer we have enjoyed four or five woodpeckers at our bird feeders. I hope cutting the tree down won't mean we will lose our woodpeckers. Anyway, I wrote a poem about cutting down the ash. The arborist told me he thought the problem with the ash was that in its early years it failed to develop an adequate root system to support the rapid growth spurt that followed removal of all its competition for nutrients so that the uppermost branches were not supplied with enough nutrition to survive the hottest part of each summer. This made the tree sickly and more vulnerable to disease. Now the poem:
A great tragedy occurred today.
I lost a friend of twenty-five years.
Slowly ‘he’ had just withered away,
death by amputation it appears.
My friend suffered from a misspent youth.
Older peers’ actions stunted his growth,
causing him to lack good roots; in truth,
he was sick as youth and adult both.
I did what I could to promote health
and improved life over the past years,
but all vigor was taken by stealth
this winter; spring confirmed my worst fears.
I contracted a professional man
to handle my friend’s untimely demise.
This arborist in a two-hour span
dismembered him without compromise.
With ropes and chainsaws, branch after branch
came crashing down to cover the ground.
I thought I saw two woodpeckers blanch
as their nest in a dead limb wasn’t found.
Soon the ash tree’s stump was ground away.
All that remained was a pile of wood chips.
Cutting down my ash made it a sad day.
(I’m glad I couldn’t read those woodpeckers’ lips!)
If you are wondering about the title, it comes from an old joke. What happened when grandma backed into the fan? Dis-assed-her.