A few weeks ago, a telltale orange ring was painted around the trunk of an elm tree right across the street from our house. Dutch Elm Disease (DED) strikes again. A story that is played out all across the city every year. I know nothing about trees or what they look for when diagnosing these things, but I knew what that ring meant. That tree was comin' down.
We had seen a handful of boulevard trees felled by DED in the 6 years we lived in our last neighborhood. You would go to work in the morning and come home to a new patch of blue sky peeking through where you had never seen sky before. Short stumps dotted the landscape until they were eventually ground down and in some cases, new trees planted in their place (if it was in the budget).
This morning, when the trucks pulled up and the crew got to business dismantling what was likely more than 100 years of growth, I was a bit sad. It's not like I had an attachment to the tree, I've only lived in this neighborhood for a little over 2 months. But still, it tugs at you a bit. Something that big, something that old. You can't replace that with a trip to Home Depot.
These monstrosities that line our streets are part of what makes the city so lovely to live in. They shade us in the summer and create a picturesque wonderland when coated with fluffy snow in the winter. Their great canopies keep these urban neighborhoods feel a little less, well, urban. An astounding 979,000 trees provide coverage to 32% of this fair city.
On Tuesday the weather was cooperating and a nice breeze was blowing, a few neighbors watched from their front steps as the process began. But that was it. There was no pomp and circumstance. No moment of silence. I don't know what I was expecting, but I'm pretty sure I could hear Taps laying in my head.
I stood at the fence and chatted with a neighbor while my one of my boys played on the front porch. He seemed oblivious to the destruction. My youngest slept soundly in his crib as the noise of the wood chipper drifted in through his open window.
The first cut took out the branch that reached out across the street and shaded our front yard. My options for next years gardening exploits just about doubled in an instant as I could now add "partial sun" to my vocabulary. That seems like a big sacrifice for an upgrade from "full shade".
After a few hours, the crew called it a day, packed up and left. The tree stood, half of her branches gone, a shock of green leaves still dancing on the branches left intact. This morning, bright and early, they were back to finish off what they had started. It took two days to finish the topping portion of the elm removal. At some point they will drop the trunk, sooner or later I am not really sure.
For now, she sits in stark contrast to the sky, limbs jutting out and up, leafless.