52 Trees – Week 1

Tree, late afternoon in September

This is the tree I see from my study window.  It’s huge, and it belongs to the garden two doors along, but its branches span the width of three of these narrow Victorian plots, including our own.  I’ve learned from heartbreaking experience that where there’s a wonderful tree growing in an urban area, it’s more than likely to be felled at some point, so when the tree surgeons moved in earlier this summer I was alarmed.  I watched from my window as they worked their way up the trunk, lopping off huge branches from the lower part of the tree.  I wasn’t sure if it was simply being trimmed or actually taken down, and I was terrified it was going to be the latter.  I could hardly bear to watch.

I’ve loved this tree since we moved in here – I’ve photographed it repeatedly, watched it change with every season, looked out at it through rain, sun, mist and hail, stood under its cool umbrella of leaves on hot days, raked up its leaves in autumn, and pulled out the hundreds of tiny seedlings that grow from its seeds in spring.  I was desperately trying to be alright with losing it and I kept thinking of the haiku by Mizuta Hasahide:

Barn’s burnt down – now I can see the moon.

It was helping, but only a little.  However, just when I thought things were going too far for it to be just a pruning operation, they stopped, and I felt the tension drain away.  The tree isn’t quite as lovely a shape as it was before, but it’s still stunningly beautiful, and the bonus is that there’s now so much more light in that part of the garden than there was before.  My tree wasn’t chopped down in the end, but I can see the moon a little better now.