The Norway Pine had to be 85 years old – at least according to a counting of the rings – and it was sturdy and healthy, ready to live on.
But, it had to go! Thirty-seven years ago, when we built our small cabin deep in the heart of the National Forest, this tree stood majestically and dangerously close to the foundation. Thanks to the skilled – and most sensitive – backwoods carpenter who constructed the building, he made the roof overhang two inches shorter to accommodate the growth of the tree. There was a gap then about two inches between the roof and the tree.
The tree grew and grew; it grew as the child who was still in our daughter’s belly when we debated about building the cabin to accommodate the tree, was born and grew into a talented woman with a strong appreciation for nature and all its wonders. Was this strong healthy tree an inspiration to her? It’s a sweet thought, anyway.
It watched over four other grandchildren who played catch and hide-and-seek in its shadow in the tiny clearing carved out of the forest for the cabin. It became scented with the smoke from the chicken, burgers, brats and steaks grilled in the makeshift barbeque under its far flung branches.
It grew, its trunk hitting the eaves of the cabin and eventually moving into the eaves by nearly another two inches destroying the soffet, eaves and shingles. Neither the restraint on its roots formed by the nearby basement nor the limitations on its trunk along the roof line seemed to impede its growth.
It was tall – at least 60 feet (I try not to exaggerate). That was its Waterloo, its breaking point. Lightning hits, far-too frequent wind squalls that whip through the woods downing sturdy trees as if they were matchsticks and the very real fear that the tree or one of its heavy limbs would come crashing down and into the bedroom which lay directly below it made our decision necessary.
So, we brought in the logging man; he needed a huge bucket truck and other equipment to down the tree, meaning that he’d have to clear out some of the nearby smaller trees, including three well-formed evergreens.
The trees on our two-acre lot in the National Forest are all second growth. This area of northwestern Wisconsin was logged early in the 20th Century and pictures from the early 1930s show a nearly devastated land. Now this lot is loaded with towering Norways, white pines, maples, clump birches, and popple.
Like the Norway, we have lived through a Great Depression, a World War and any unfortunate number of smaller ways and “police actions,” great civil rights struggles and successes and now a growing nation of partisanship. There have been scores of family tragedies, dramas coupled with joys and happiness.
The death of a beloved tree is cause for reflection.—Ken Germanson, July 27, 2013.