The Tree

or How I Learned to Love the Unlovable

It stands in our small front yard, and frankly is a mistake.  I remember talking to our tree guy and telling him I really wanted a tree in front of our house.

“That area is too small.  It will just block your plantings in front, not to mention the wrap-around porch.”

I was determined.  He selected a tree that wouldn’t grow too tall; I don’t even remember the species, genus, or familiar name for this nondescript entity.  All I knew at the time was that it would have purple leaves in early spring that would yield to white flowers and green foliage.  When it arrived, I pointed out a spot near the house, nothing well-thought out or considered, more like a “let’s get this done” approach.  I regretted my decision immediately.  It was too close to our nice front porch; I hadn’t positioned it with enough care.  It irked me, but I left it, hoping for the best.  That didn’t keep me from wincing a little every time I saw how it hid our pretty Patio Peach or obscured the lovely lines of our porch railing. For the first couple of years it wasn’t a big problem, but it kept growing, especially in places that didn’t please my aesthetic sensibilities.  Branches grew high and low, splaying out at odd angles that gave it more the appearance of a bush run amok than a graceful tree.  The trunk never straightened, stubbornly leaning at an angle that defied gravity.

Despite my dislike of this awkward growth in my otherwise pretty yard, I was still dismayed when its slender branches were coated with thick ice a couple of years ago causing them to bend precariously under the added weight – so much so that I threw a winter coat over my nightgown and armed myself with a hairdryer plugged into an extension cord.  The sight of me in our snow and ice-covered yard aiming that portable heating device at a small tree limb must have been something, not to mention one of the most idiotic things I’ve ever done (that failed miserably).

Finally, last year, I had enough.  I needed to fix my mistake.  There was no longer any discernible regularity in the footprint or form of this errant vegetation.  The tree had to go.  I called someone to make arrangements to cut it down, envisioning how beautiful our yard would look, as it should have been all along.  I walked out to make a last inspection.  As I neared the tree, I heard the leaves rustle before a small bird fled its protecting branches at a speed and angle that were breathtaking.  It landed on our neighbor’s roof, chattering wildly as to draw my attention.  I peered into the tree and spotted a small bit of brown weave through the thick greenery.  It was a nest.  Gently, I pulled down the supporting branch and looked in – three beautiful speckled blue eggs.  I went inside and called the lawn service.  I wouldn’t be taking the tree down after all.  Lives were at stake.

From a distance, I kept an eye on the tree and nest through the spring.  The eggs were replaced by yawning yellow beaks lined in scarlet that cheeped incessantly, then little birds whose growing girth strained the small circumference of their stick and mud home, and finally they were gone, leaving a quiet and empty void.  The nest remained through the winter.  At Christmas time, I brought out a small red wreath to adorn the bare branch that held the lonely structure.  Alas, come early spring, the little shelter was gone, no doubt the victim of a late winter storm.

I’ve now made peace with this ungainly leafy tenant of our front yard, settling for a cursory trim of the most offending limbs.  Now, it looks rather pretty with its spring finery of lush green leaves and delicate white flowers, freshly decorated for new tenants.  When you think about it, she never really did belong to me.

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