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Changing of the guard

It’s gone: the 40-foot maple tree in front of the house. We knew it was dying; we put off cutting it down til it was dangerous to people and cars passing below. Finally at the end of March the deed was done.

I thought I was ready. I thought it was gone from my mental image of our place. After all, it was ugly; it was painful to look at; I definitely tried not to. But now in May, as the garden comes to life and I look at it more, I see the whole place is changed. I look out the bay window and see — the parking lot of the small apartment house across the street. I never noticed that before! The trunk of the tree didn't really block it from view, but Tree dominated my perception of the view.

For the last few years I've collected names of interesting trees in my database. Now I'm going through a list of 50, checking for suitability. For example the maple got too big for the water it could get, squeezed between the house and the street. It shaded half the house, but a 20-foot tree would still give a leafy view from the bedroom windows.

Ripping out the maple's extensive root system would create havoc with the terraced hill, the garden and the lawn. I’ll have to let them rot naturally. The new tree will have to start small, so I can plant it in among the old roots.

But I want a fast grower, because without something tall, the front garden is too plain, too flat. When my perennials bush up, that will help — but not enough. The place seems naked: it makes me feel exposed, nervous, embarrassed.

When I built rock-wall terraces up the little slope from the street to the house, I never thought about the fact that the maple rose from the lowest terrace, right on the boundary between the public space where a sidewalk might go, and the private part of the yard. But now I feel like our place has lost a guardian. People walking by can't see into the yard that much more than they could before. But the feng shui is devastated. It feels like the energy is pouring out into the street. We have lost some kind of virtual privacy.

Time to find a new gatekeeper to stand sentinel on our threshold.

Photos by C.H. Clark
  1. In March the tree came down
  2. In May flowers grow low there
  3. The view from the bedroom window now

Text and photos © Copyright 2006 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 19 May 2006

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