September is usually my favorite month of the year. This year, not so much. I lost a dear old friend a couple of weeks ago. Not a human friend nor an animal friend, but, silly as it may sound, a tree friend.
Most Idahoans who live on the high desert steppe of south-central Idaho agree, cutting down a beautiful, mature, tree of any kind is akin to sacrilege. In truth, trees are so important to Idahoans, nearly sixty percent of the state lives in or near a Tree City USA.
Unfortunately, nature sometimes takes its course far more quickly than one may like. Such was the case with my tree buddy. An arborist informed me it wasn’t bugs or even disease that was choking the life from my tree. It was simply old age. The average life span of a silver maple is one hundred years. He estimated my tree was at least one hundred twenty years old.
I haven’t counted the tree rings yet, but now that my buddy is down, I can sure see there are lots and lots and lots of them. I was actually depressed for a couple of days over the loss of my tree. It served as both excellent shade from the brutal heat of summer, and a play ground used by five rambunctious kids for everything from climbing to ziplining. Now, weirdly, my house feels “naked” and my grandkids will lose out on a lot of cool play space.
A couple of days after the tree was down, my Mama came home for the weekend. I told her losing the tree was really bugging me and I wasn’t sure exactly why. Leave it to Mama to have the answer.
“Well,” she said, starting to giggle, “if you think about it in tree terms, you have fifty-four tree rings, about half of that old tree, and your life expectancy isn’t one hundred years. I think you’re feeling as old as your getting!”
By now, one should think I would simply listen to my Mama’s words of wisdom instead of challenging her thought process. But I’m not that smart.
“Geez, Mom,” I said with a fair amount of indignation. “I admit I’m getting old, but you have ninety-one tree rings, and will have ninety-two by the end of October. If I’m old, what are you?”
“Nearly as old as your tree!” she said, now laughing so hard she was bent double. “Look at it this way. The tree is gone but that is one hell of a stump! If I were you, I would build a big ol’ tree house on it. Your kids and your grandkids will love that. Besides,” she added, “That tree was dying and it could very easily have fallen on your house if you hadn’t taken it down.”
Later that evening, it really came home to me what Mama was saying. I would give about anything for her to live to one hundred twenty, but the chances of that are pretty slim. She has already been informed her kidneys are in bad shape, and her children have been told we should “prepare ourselves.”
As if one can.
Still, her amazing wisdom came through to me like the vibrant, shining light she is. Change is inevitable, nothing lives forever, and while your looking for the upside, never forget there’s always a downside.
That’s my Mama. Honest as the day is long, and as refreshing as ice water on a blistering summer day. In her own way she reminded me once again, she will leave us one day.
She also reminded me, she will leave us with one hell of a big stump to build on.