Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky.Kahlil Gibran
When we first saw our house, the beech tree barely drew attention, standing off to one side, neglected and unassuming in a way that belied its age and stature. There were scars across its mighty trunk where the previous owners had wrapped a chain around it to keep their large dog under control. They had paved over its root system with asphalt and laid a driveway of pea stones right up to the edges of its trunk. After we bought the house, we immediately hired an arborist out to assess the trees in our yard. He told us the beech was looking very stressed, and that without immediate intervention it wouldn’t survive much longer. We were not able to immediately remove the asphalt driveway, but did administer the liquid fertilizer the arborist recommended.
After two years we were finally able to remove the driveway and replace it with a water permeable surface. We stopped using the garage and the area under the beech tree as our parking lot. With the continued use of fertilizers the tree began to improve and was losing less large branches each year. The beech remained in a very stable place for years, but unfortunately this was not to last. Winter moths began eating its beautiful leaves, weakening an already vulnerable tree that was being attacked beech scale. We tried spraying the leaves and watering only with soaker hoses, but the tree just wasn’t responding to any of the treatments.
One spring two years ago it leafed out as usual but by June it had dropped all its leaves. The arborist tried new experimental treatments for our beloved tree but no new leaves came out that summer. That November we tried one last treatment injected into the root system. We hoped and we waited until spring to see if she had one last bit of life in her. We waited in April, we waited in May, we waited in June and we finally succumbed to the reality that the beech was dead and it would leaf out no more that July.
With the loss of such a significant presence it’s hard not to feel guilty that you didn’t try hard enough or make the right decisions that could change the outcome. The ‘what if’s’ can really be difficult to overcome. Unfortunately, our beech tree is in not the only copper beech tree in the area that is suffering greatly from the changing climate pressures. Temperature differences, lack of water, and greater vulnerability to detrimental insects have been steadily making it difficult for local trees to survive. Stands of European beech trees in neighboring towns are also under attack. This doesn’t exactly make me feel better, but at least I know that there was nothing more I could have done for our tree.
We all would miss our beautiful beech in so many different ways. My daughters would miss the tree they learned to climb in and the shade it had provided for their swing set and sandbox. The robins that nested in the branches closest to my youngest daughters window would miss their home. My husband would miss sitting in the hammock in the backyard looking up at the mighty beech in awe of its size and beauty. I would, and still do, miss just about every aspect of that lovely tree. It provided us with shade, privacy, grounding. A larger than life personality watching over our house and family – its absence is a void, a vulnerable openness that used to protect.