A Petrified Tree

I don’t know exactly when he died.  He seemed as still and tall and upright as ever, his arching boughs bracing the two less imposing end trees.  The garden is nearly forty feet long, on the oval, double the length of the hosta conga line that adorns the walkway–really, when I think about it, paralleling the entire length of the house.  Last year, the squirrels built their nest in the far tree, the one of all the three which is most healthy, none of its smaller trunks cleaving the main trunk but rather emerging from a robust centre…  This year, the squirrels’ nest is way at the top of the dead tree.  I find that interesting; they must know it’s dead and could palsy in a high wind and fall over any minute.  (And if you don’t know how smart squirrels are, wait till I tell you about Mussolini next post.)  As I said, I didn’t notice that he’d died until lately when I looked at his split trunk as if I’d never seen him before.  He couldn’t possibly be the same tree as when I moved here three years ago and craned my neck to view the startling height of him.  That tree must have been stolen, some time in the dark hours of the winter when the ground heaves in its programme of thaw-freeze; freeze-thaw. And the leaves on this impostor tree are full of bugs, tiny and amoebic-like, shrivelling the leaves so that some are closed up like little fists, listless and green; they have already given up the ghost.  He’s become a stranger tree though I knew him well once.  I suppose this happens to people too:  a tiny flaw grows until it erodes vitality–a diminishment of virtue, in the end.  If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is around to hear it, has the tree fallen?  (Remember that one?)  I need permission from the city to cut down my friend; with a final, silent scream, he might career toward the house or the roadway and do untold damage. Untold. I’ll be the teller; I’ll do the tell, after only the stump of him remains.  I’ll be sure to witness his fall, as poignant as the fall of a sparrow, and from the same dizzying height.

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