Until last week, my kitchen window framed a decades-old maple tree in my neighbor’s back yard, a silent witness to life’s greening. Leafy branches fanned summer skies, shaded an apron-bed of red and white impatiens, afforded a playground for mating squirrels and cardinals, and companioned a growing family.

Then disease shriveled leaves, dropping them before their time. Scraggy limbs broke from the trunk and scarred the earth; others, specter-like, yearned in empty supplication, but the decomposition continued.

A year passed, further wasting the maple, spooking leafing trees and shrubs surrounding it, shrugging off birds and squirrels. The lesson was obvious.

Then a buzz saw’s whining ripped apart the morning’s stillness. A helmeted, orange-shirted worker maneuvered a bucket truck among the disfigured branches and within three hours, all were felled. A thicket of logs and smaller branches littered the grass like the remnants of a wild party. Then came the trunk, sliced in rounds. Only the stump remained, dug out by the stump grinder the following morning, leaving mounds of blonde flakes tossed by trickster winds.

Hidden within all created beauty lies its destructive seed, a strange beauty on its own. We do well to pay close attention.

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