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The tears of the red cedar. February 24, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , ,

If you live on the East Coast, you might recall the unseasonable snowstorm that swept over us all this past October, when the deciduous trees still had their leaves and were unprepared to bear the full weight of a heavy, wet snow, which lingered in the freakish subfreezing temperatures.

The result was fallen trees, snapped branches, and downed power lines, leaving tens of thousands—including our friend Ben and Silence Dogood—without power for a week or more. This would have been demoralizing enough without those subfreezing temps, which made the risk of frozen, and subsequently burst, pipes very real, along with the astronomical costs for replacing the pipes and dealing with the damage. Thank God we have a backup woodstove here at Hawk’s Haven that was able to keep the floors, and thus the pipes, above freezing.

People these days aren’t used to living in the dark and cold, without heat, stoves (if electric), or even running water or plumbing (if, like us, you’re on a well). And rather than blaming climate change or an act of God, they blamed their power companies. 

Our own power company apparently decided to do something about it: They came down our road this week, cutting off all tree branches that came anywhere near a road or power line.

Now, mind you, free tree-trimming is nothing to sneeze at in a time when arborists’ prices are so astronomical that few homeowners can afford them. (Who has thousands of dollars lying around to pay for a professional to take down a tree?) And the power company tried to be considerate, cutting downed branches into fireplace-sized logs and stacking them neatly on each homeowner’s lawn, providing mounds of free wood chips when homeowners requested them, and tidying up so there was virtually no debris left after their trucks had passed.  

Our friend Ben would have had nothing but praise for the power company were it not for our red cedar (Juniperus virginiana, aka Eastern red cedar). Silence Dogood and I have been in awe of this majestic specimen since we first came to Hawk’s Haven, our cottage home in the precise middle of nowhere, PA. It towers over the front of our property, producing thousands of juniper berries each year, giving food and shelter to untold numbers of birds year-round, but especially when winter cuts off so many other sources of nourishment and would otherwise expose them to the cold and to hungry predators. It defines our entire front yard.

So you can imagine my horror when I saw what the tree-trimmers had done. While expressing sensitivity towards every other tree on the road, they had cut the entire street-facing part of our cedar tree back to the trunk, halving it and turning it into a parody of its former self, a two-dimensional, see-through object that even the smallest bird would have a hard time sheltering in. No matter that it actually didn’t extend over the road. No matter that evergreens, unlike deciduous trees, are equipped by nature to bear snow loads without breaking, even though they still have their leaves/needles. Not one single evergreen branch, much less tree, broke or toppled during that terrible freak October storm. 

Our friend Ben was in shock when I saw what the power company had done. I drove up and down the road to make sure, and yes, ours was the only tree that had been brutalized like this. I can’t imagine what would have caused the power company employees to do such a thing.

My eyes dry and burning, I walked up to our beloved tree and put my hand on an open wound from its severed branches. It was red like a wound, as its name implies, but dry to my touch, like my outraged eyes. And yet, when I returned indoors, I could feel its tears, sticky on my hand, like the ones I longed to shed on its behalf. No doubt I’ll feel their imprint ’til I die.

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.



1. h.ibrahim - February 25, 2012

Do you think they were afraid it might fall on your house…though of course it hasn’t for decades!?

Sadly, quite the reverse: They lopped off all the branches on the street side, making it far MORE like to fall toward the house should that evil day ever dawn…

h.ibrahim - February 25, 2012

Sorry you were not there to stop them—sad indeed!

2. The tears of the red cedar. « Poor Richard's Almanac | Tree Trimmers Austin - February 25, 2012

[…] Continued here: The tears of the red cedar. « Poor Richard's Almanac […]

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