It never was much to look at, this black cherry tree, 50 feet tall or so and felled by Sam and Ron from the tree service today after having occupied a space in the backyard of the house where we’ve lived for almost 25 years. Over time it had shed a limb or two, but it was strong enough to outlast blizzards and violent thunderstorms. It even stood firm in 2011, when we awoke early on a late August Sunday morning to find that the gale force winds of Tropical Storm Irene had split our graceful Bradford pear and toppled a locust onto the roof of our garage, in the process uprooting a brick sidewalk that had been painstakingly installed only weeks earlier.
This is no tragedy, nothing like the mishap that struck a friend of mine who returned to his house one day to find that a cherished copper beech had been dispatched by employees of a tree service whose mangled instructions brought about the tree’s demise. Our tree was thinly-leafed even in its best days and it started dropping those leaves when the soggy heat of August still beat down on our shady yard. Its small purple fruits weren’t the plump cherries that bring delight to those same hot summer afternoons. Instead, they splattered their stain onto our deck, an annoyance that became even worse when they passed through the digestive systems of our local birds. The tree was something of an eyesore amid the red azaleas, purple rhododendrons and orange lilies that brighten the flower bed where it stood. Now it won’t be there to detract from their beauty or distract us from the row of burning bushes behind it that flame crimson every October. But I wish it were possible now to page through an album of photographs and recall how it had grown over the quarter century of its presence, something like the snapshots that mark the passages of our children who were eleven and almost nine when we moved here. Instead, I’ll have to content myself with the pair of photographs I took today: one of its sturdy full length and the other gazing upward through the latticework of its delicate, bare branches into the bright winter sky.