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Sixteen years ago, we met: a mature sweet gum tree shading the front of my new bungalow with rich green foliage. It had survived the city’s removal of a large limb, its wound long healed.

Months passed, before spotting a solitary yellow leaf laying on the grass, its stem dormant, announcing the change. I looked up. Still largely green, occasional bi-colored leaves hung on the branches. The surprise was unfurling like swirls of colorful cloths shown at auction: scarlets, lime greens, buttery yellows, and thievery browns.

For several weeks, the show continued until its demise: mounds of faded shriveled leaves strewn around the yard, later raked and bagged for the city’s yard waste pick-up. Stripped from my natural beauty, I grieved. It would be a long wait for its return.

As years passed, the sweet gum tree continued prospering, with more bags of gum balls lined at the curb for the city’s pick-up.

Then, the disruption began: 2021’s violent rain storms wrenched two large branches from the trunk leaving large swaths of exposed wood. Its woundedness remained with us until three weeks ago, when another large limb crashed to the street, with nothing precipitating this loss. The sweet gum tree was ailing and the arborist’s response was to take it down. A red cord, now circling the trunk, will enable the crew to identify it.

The analogy between the ailing sweet gum tree all that lives, including ourselves, is obvious, but our spirits continue on.

We wait for the inevitable.

The afternoon drones with sounds mimicking the dentist’s drill, only amplified tenfold: the ache is similar although I’m not bibbed and numbed and goggled and sitting in the dentist’s chair. It’s the thirty-foot-cypress, overgrown and dropping limbs in my backyard, that is coming down.

Fifteen minutes earlier, I watched the arborist, squat and muscular as a bulldog, buckle his harness around his waist, hitch his chainsaw to his belt, strap spur- supports to his calves and feet, hurl his support rope around the base of the tree, and with his hard hat buckled under his chin, mount the tree.

In no time, lower branches crash to the ground, and two burly helpers heft them over the fence into the jaws of the chipper parked in the street. More wrenching of what was the tree resonates with the ache of the chainsaw. One hour later, all that remains of the cypress is a pile of logs, their ends resembling six-petelled rustic flowers. The afternoon quiet returns.

I’m left with long thoughts …



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