This week’s grief was that we had to cut down a spruce tree that was thriving but too close to the house. Its roots threatened all kinds of trouble.
We bought this tree to brighten the room where my mother was dying, twenty-one years ago next month. The spruce was one of those mini-Christmas trees in a pot. For a week or more we held long vigils in that room, night and day. We threaded the baby tree with coloured lights to soften its bareness and all that raw emotion, trying to create a Christmas atmosphere as the millenium and the predicted dramas of Y2K bore down on us.
She died two weeks short of the new century. I couldn’t bring myself to throw the tree away, as I think you’re probably expected to do. I planted it instead. It grew until it dwarfed the house and threatened the foundations. It had to go. I felt so guilty, not just because of my mother but because of the tree’s own magnificent persistence. It was so strong and straight and tall – and so very green. It had done all that breathing for us over the years, absorbed so much light and mist, screened us from the street. In the interdependent respiratory cycle of trees and humans, we had exchanged many molecules of air.
Soft guilt. I agreed to its demise. But: Was there any way to save even part of it? I asked. I watched for a while and then I couldn’t watch any more and went back to work.
The light was fading when Darragh came to the door. A seedling tray in his hands held a small forest of tiny cuttings, carefully planted. Not all of them would take but some might, he said, if we’re careful. He told us how to look after them. The sight of those baby trees undid me. He’d taken such care. What he really planted in that tray was hope and human kindness. Good lessons in these Covid days.