A STATELY TREE

Branching Out, by Rich Paschall


William was staring up at the giant tree when Mr. Dubois softly approached.  “It really is a magnificent tree,” he told William in a consoling tone of voice.  William would have none of that.  He glared back at the neighbor before speaking.

“It is a horrible tree, sir.  It has been for years,” William said frankly.  “And now it has killed my mother and it has to go.”

Exactly one week earlier William’s elderly mother was working in the garden when a branch from the large tree fell on top of her.  Apparently no one saw the accident and she was lying there for a long time before help was called.  It was too late, however, as the old branch was too big and heavy.  It pinned her to the spot and she was unable to cry out.

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“Oh no, William, this old tree did not kill anyone.  It is quiet and harmless.  It was just an accident.  That’s all it was. Perhaps some wind knocked a dying branch off the tree.”

“My mother hated that tree and she should have gotten rid of it years ago,” he retorted.

“You must be mistaken.  I think she loved the tree.  Just look at its stately magnificence.  Why, there isn’t a finer shade tree in the neighborhood!  In the summer, it protects your whole house.  In the fall its colors are a joy.  It must be twice as tall as the house.  I believe it has been there more than 100 years.  It was probably planted when your mother’s nice home was first built.”

“Mr. Dubois,” William began, “that is exactly the problem.  In the spring it drops a million seeds. Every fall, it drops tons of leaves.  The roots are in everything. The sidewalk is cracked as is the basement floor.  We must clear roots from the drain pipes every year.  My mother was tired of this thing and planned to take it down.”

Mr. Dubois gasped.  He just could not imagine anyone wanting to take down such a grand tree.  He begged William to consider the benefits of the tree.

“There are no benefits, Mr. Dubois.  The damn thing must go. Period. When I collect my mother’s insurance money, that’s exactly I’m going to do.  It would be a tribute to her if took her money and removed this threat to my home and my neighbors’ homes.”

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William knew a tree that size would cost a fortune to remove.  It was twice as tall as the house.  Branches went through all the cables that ran to the house from the alley.  He could never have afforded the thousands of dollars it would cost to remove a giant tree,  but with the windfall from the life insurance money his mother had left him, he could do it.

A month later, Mr. Dubois was passing the estate when he spotted William by the tree behind the house. He was smiling.  He walked up to him and said, “I hope now that some time has passed, William,  you see what a lovely tree it is.”

“On the contrary, sir, I see what a menace it is. And now, I can afford to get rid of it. I am calling for quotes from trees services. I think rose bushes would look terrific here, don’t you?”

“William, you offend this magnificent living thing.”

“A tree can’t be offended. But I can be … and I am.  Soon we’ll have a clear view of the sky.”

Mr. Dubois looked at the tree, shook his head, and walked away.

William remained under the tree and considered how he might make use of the space he’d regain when the tree was gone. Suddenly, there was a loud snapping. A huge branch fell from the tree onto William.  He was knocked to the ground gasping for breath.  Although it was late summer, some leaves rained down too and covered him.

A broken limb

A broken limb

About an hour later paramedics arrived, took the branch off William and brushed the leaves from the poor soul.  They did their best to revive William, but after working on him a while, they shook their heads. Then, they put him into the ambulance and drove away.

Mr. Dubois had been watching from across the street.  He shook his head, apparently amazed such a thing could happen twice.

Slowly William’s neighbor walked across the quiet city street.  The avenue was lined with old homes that had been erected more than 100 years earlier, when the neighborhood was first settled by immigrants from Sweden and Norway.  A handful of homes still had the giant trees that were planted when their wood frame homes were built.  William’s mother had perhaps the most stately tree of all.

The best tree of all

The best tree of all

Mr. Dubois walked up to William’s tree and inspected all the branches for any more old and dying limbs.  Everything was healthy and blooming.  Finally Mr. Dubois spoke to the tree.

“I warned them,” he explained.  “I warned them both, but they would not listen.  So I did as you indicated both times.  After the loud noise I waited an hour before calling paramedics.  Perhaps the boy will not return either.  It would be a shame to have to drop another branch.”

Mr. Dubois took one more look at his beloved tree. And went home.

TREES – CEE’S BLACK AND WHITE CHALLENGE

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Trees


Bi-tonal moon setting at sunrise

Bi-tonal sunrise

The colorful autumn leave as well as delicate shades of green leaves will lose something when translated to black and white. However, the shape and form of trees in black and white is amplified, especially in silhouette against a bright sky.

Date palms with mountains

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amherst stone church shadows BW

Cee's Black & White Photo Challenge Badge

CRAWLING NIGHTMARES

This summer has been a nightmare. A waking nightmare. For anyone whose nightmare images are hairy crawling things coming to get you, we had’em. A LOT of them. Everywhere. Falling from the trees and the eaves. Writhing underfoot.

When one day, we woke up to find our world covered — and I mean really covered — in gypsy moth caterpillars, it was the beginning of nightmare time for me and a lot of other people. Not only do they defoliate all the hardwood trees — with oak being a particular favorite — but they get into everything. They slither around your house, piggyback on your pets, crawl down your collar. They are also ever so slightly poisonous.

A quick contact with one can leave you with raised welts that hurt and itch for weeks.

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Now, the caterpillars are done with us for the year. The leaves are coming back and finally, even the naked tall oaks are looking more like trees and less like skeletons.

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There are still a lot of moths out there laying eggs. I don’t know whether or not next year will be a rerun. If yes, it will be a very bad year for the trees.

The hot weather we’re currently having (it’s going up to almost 100 today) will help destroy some of the egg. A decent amount of rain would help even more.

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Nightmare? My nightmare is caterpillars. Everywhere … and when the world is quiet, you can hear them eating the trees. That’s my nightmare … and it was real.

DAILY PROMPT | Nightmare

NEW LEAVES AND FUCHSIAS

No question about it now. The oaks are growing new leaves. The process is going faster some places than others and there’s no apparent reason why. There were still a lot of moths around on Friday, but today, no more than a few futilely flapping through the end of their lives. I have never been happier to see the end of any creatures.

And so, the fuchsia are soldiering on and the leaves are growing back on the trees. Is this the end of the story or merely an intermission?

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FLOWER OF THE DAY – JULY 13, 2016 – SUNFLOWER

SUNSET TIMES TWO

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We don’t usually see sunsets in the summer here. The trees typically hide the sky. But this year, having had our oak trees thoroughly defoliated by the gypsy moth caterpillars, we have an almost wintry view of the western horizon.

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I looked out the window and I said “Oh, look … what a pretty sky!” So I grabbed my Olympus and ran out front, ignoring the dive bombing moths. Then, I went back inside, popped the chip into the computer and started to process. Ten minutes later, I looked up and said, “Oh, MY!”

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Garry looked over and said, “You’d better move!” and luckily, I had the Panasonic loaded for bear and I hot-footed it to the front for the second act of the show.

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You can sort of see that there are the beginning of new leaves on the oak trees. Some of the maples still have leaves … others don’t. I’m not sure why they ate one tree and not another. That’s probably too existential a question to ask when dealing with caterpillars.

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FIGHTING MONSTERS

We all battle monsters. Real monsters. Monsters “from the id,” and those monsters that dwell in our subconscious. And of course, there are the monsters that are us.

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Ever since the weather went from winter to warm, I’ve felt as if my back is against the wall and the demons are closing in. This is not the way I usually feel. I’ve been through a lot of crap over the years. Physically, mentally, socially. I’ve gone through enough rough patches to feel like “rough” is perfectly normal to be dealt with by wearing sturdy sandals.

This year my defenses were breached. Being attacked by a zillion poisonous, ravening caterpillars … while all I could do in response was hide indoors was a uniquely horrible experience which I hope never to repeat. It has taken a toll. I am mentally exhausted and more than a little freaked out.

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The worst of the horror show is over, I know. The trees have been defoliated and are apparently recovering. There are a million or several million moths zooming about the humid air. If they were at least pretty, it would help.

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Gypsy Moths aren’t pretty. They are little. Dull brown, taupe, or gray. Except for the non-flying females who are white. None of the moths do anything at this stage. After morphing into moths, they no longer eat. They lay or fertilize eggs, fly aimlessly here and there … then die.,

I can hardly wait.

That this could conceivably recur again next year makes me want to cry. I’m sure that we’ll survive, but somehow, it isn’t much of a comfort.

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There’s much irony going around because on most other rational levels, life is going quite well. So why do I feel like a bad version of Macbeth is being staged in my head?

A SECOND SPRING

After a complete defoliation by voracious gypsy caterpillars, there are signs of recovery in the woods.

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It’s hard to find an up-side to a gypsy moth infestation, but if any exists, it’s that you not only get more light without the trees blocking the sun, but you can actually see the birds. I hear them, but usually they are hidden high in the trees.

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Right now, there’s no place to hide. You can see the beginnings of a new crop of leaves. A second spring is coming. In another few weeks, most of the trees will have leaves again.

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Some places seem to be rebounding a lot faster than others. I don’t yet know what that means … if it means anything.

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And so our forest, stripped of most of its leaves, deprived of the means to manufacture nourishment, endures. Hints of a second spring give us hope that our beautiful woods will make it through the siege. Most of the oaks and maples will survive. I hope losses will be few.

DEPRIVE | THE DAILY POST