For about 70 years a Monterey Pine lived in the earth of my next-door neighbor’s home; I could find my way home by it. If two people held hands we could hold the tree but one person alone couldn’t. A high branch on that tree held owls calling to their mates. Turkeys got up in its lower branches. The crows had parties there. Just the other day my neighbor, Tammy, saw an adult and juvenile hawk using a branch for a lookout.
Over the 20 years I’ve lived here I’ve watched the stately tree die a bit at a time. Tree trimmers would come and remove dead branches now and then. Finally, when more of the tree was dead than alive it was clear the tree had to go.
Yesterday was a loud day; the cats hid out in my office with me. Every now and then I went out to take a look at the tree’s disintegration, long branch by long branch: gone. Then the tall heft of its trunk. Bit by bit the saw’s teeth cut the tree down.
It’s gone now, and though I understand why and didn’t want a winter storm to send branches onto our roof or Tammy’s, there’s an empty place in the sky where there was once and for a very long time there was green and brown regality. Nothing nearby has the height that pine did. Where will the owls go to call for each other in the night, close enough that I’ll have the good fortune to be woken by them? For now there’s only a hole in the backyard sky.
And you, what’s gone missing from your life that might need a bit of your attention, a handful of your words? The presence of the absent we may carry a long ways. Here’s a way to honor what you’ve loved.