(A three photograph series)
A friend of mine recently shared her feelings connected to the cutting down of a tree in her yard. I thought of paraphrasing her words, but she expressed her thoughts so beautifully, I couldn’t alter them. She wrote, “We lost a dear tree today, a beautiful green ash that stood eighty feet high. Years ago when our house was being built and all we had was a wooden shell that tree rose above the roofline and declared itself part of the house. It’s been a home for squirrels and birds and probably a raccoon here and there. It hurts that we lost it.”
I have a pear tree that holds a lot of sentimental meaning, but it’s showing its age. Some larger branches are suffering from dry rot and breaking away from the trunk. I’m going to cry when we finally have to say good bye to it. Until then, I do anything possible to extend its life.
The original owners of our house were in their nineties when they relinquished it to us. They were happy to see their beloved home pass to a couple with young children. So many happy memories here, they told us. The backyard was a bit overgrown and in need of taming, but we weren’t discouraged. My husband and I looked past the weeds and tangles of scrub and saplings to the gems that lie beneath. In the centre of it all — two pear trees.
In the beginning, the pear trees were in a wild disarray. After a few years of pruning and attention, they became the central focus of the garden. The trees became the marker of time and season. The bounty of white flowers that appear near the end of each May become the harbinger of summer. In the heat of late summer, birds sit in the tree feasting on fruit, and their chirping welcomes us into each day, albeit often too early at 4:00 a.m.
For many years, we’d sit in our Muskoka chairs under the shade of the pear trees. A lot of books and newspapers were read there. A lot of red wine was drunk there too as we talked through child rearing decisions, career dilemmas, and the shape our future would take.
One July, I strung the pear trees with Christmas lights and prepared a romantic picnic dinner for the two of us. Our children were old enough to eat their own dinner inside. We spent dinner talking and looking upward through the branches, trying to ignore the three faces pressed up against the inside of our bedroom window, spying on us and giggling.
The pear trees connected us to people in our neighbourhood and beyond. It was impossible to consume all of the fruit from the trees, so our children sold them each summer. Passersby would see our pears for sale sign and stop by to chat. We met a lot of wonderful people through these exchanges. That all changed when one of the trees died. In recent years, the fruit production has slowed. There is always enough to make jam; pear and apple, ginger, or cranberry. We often gift the jam to friends and our children.
These days, our lone pear tree performs the service of blocking the sun from our eyes when we read or take dinner in the garden. Now that the children have grown, there are no more gangly legs hanging from the branches. They’ve been replaced by bird feeders. Instead of issuing warnings to be safe, we comment on the cardinals and blue jays that visit or the antics of squirrels.
Our surviving pear tree has become an aged tenant for whom we feel great affection. Our hearts are forever tied to a tree.
Do you have a memory to share? Some information to offer?
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