Monday, December 29, 2014

The Maple and the Ash

This Christmas, my sister Lorie gave us all a very special present: beautifully wrought wooden bowls.  These true gifts were crafted by my uncle, Bob Clayton, with wood from the maple tree we were forced to cut down in my mom’s front yard this past year.  

The maple tree was planted in 1978 by my father, to commemorate the marriage of my eldest sibling, Tom, to his wife Karen.  It was barely taller than me at the time. 

Me, with my sister Lorie 1981

As we grew, so did the tree, until it towered over the house.  My father would sit on the porch, stare at that tree, and say it was getting too big.  But he let it grow, for reasons I understood completely.  That tree was part of our family. 

Mom, with Lorie, Tom and baby Sally

In 2011, Dad and I sat on the porch of the home I grew up in, the house he bought with his pregnant wife over 50 years before, and where he had raised a family. 
The sun shone over the neighbourhood on a perfect July day, as if everything were going to be perfect, the birds singing, the grass lush and green, my mom’s roses in bloom.  Only now, my Dad knew he was dying and so was the tree.  It was my 50th birthday.  And Dad said, “I should have taken that tree down . . . I wanted to . . .”  He turned to look at me, and I understood the regret, the desire to preserve a life we all valued. 
And I said, “I will take care of it, Dad.”

He was 98 pounds by this time, the first I’d ever seen my Dad look old.  He passed away two months later from esophageal cancer. 

Landscapers came to assess the trees on my mother’s lot, and they agreed the maple must come down, and the many mature ash trees in the backyard would need to be treated to prevent infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer, now sweeping through Ontario.  It seemed to me that so much of what I thought was permanent was being eroded.

The Maple and the Ash
by SA Moore
Cut down,
because you towered over my mother's house;
the wedding that planted you
long since sprouted grandchildren
Housefront obscured
because Chinese lumber is cheap;
fifty years at creekside
no match for foreign pests
Backyard at risk
because black cells invaded my father’s stomach;
the marriage that made you
cut short to fifty-five years
Inside suspended 

After the tree was removed, the house seemed lonely and exposed.  The driveway was stacked with hunks of wood that had once been our tree.  The landscapers told us the centre of the tree had been rotting, but the limbs were solid.

My younger brother, John, began inviting people to take pieces of the tree, and his friends from my dad’s hunting camp and my uncle, a wood carver like my dad, obliged. 
To have a piece of that tree now in my house, and so beautifully crafted is a reminder of the values my dad and I shared.  Family comes first, true beauty lies in duty, and our place on this earth requires dedication . . . and sometimes, it requires letting go.