Guest Columns

The Monster Suddenly Lying in the Front Yard

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By Michael Gold

The Incredible Hulk had been lying down asleep in our front yard over four long days and he would not be moved. He was the uninvited guest that didn’t take any hints to leave, and nothing could persuade him to, not even the police or promises of 30-year-old Scotch.

OK, it wasn’t the Hulk and not an amazing simulation of him, either.

It was actually a chunk of tree consisting of a thick, cylindrical tube of wood, wider than a television wrestler’s cartoon chest and a bit longer than a standard-length canoe, with a dozen limbs radiating out from the main branch, each with rich, green leaves decorating the air just a few feet off the ground.

The massive beast was so large it blocked off the front steps to our porch, and therefore, prevented us from getting back in the house.

The big guy was one of the casualties of Tropical Storm Isaias, which struck our area Aug. 4.

“This is like Sandy,” our insurance claims agent told me on the phone the day after the storm, a massive, wrecking fury of 40-mile-per-hour winds and sheets of rain racing like greyhounds unleashed from the sky.

Trees live large in my imagination, a constant gift to us, from the spread of their trunks to the soft blossoms of white, purple and pink they sprout in springtime, to the acorns the oak produces for that most comically nervous of animals, the common gray squirrel, who grabs his little prizes, chews them into pulp with typewriter speed, then skitters around yards of towns across the known world.

I never envisaged a giant tree branch lying in my yard, pretending to sleep, when it should be doing its job of standing tall, keeping the neighborhood cool, providing shade, cleaning the air of pollutants and absorbing carbon dioxide from our many destructive activities, intentional and otherwise.

A substantial remnant of the tree is still standing, presumably alive, but a local tree surgeon told us this giant needs to come down, for our own safety.

He also told us that a few other trees on our neighbor’s properties should come down, too. A future storm could cause any one of them to crash into our roof and take out a good portion of the house, potentially injuring a member of our family and wrecking the property beyond recognition. Our neighbors’ houses, of course, faced the same threat.

This impending tree massacre makes me regretful about their fate, not to mention the carbon that will be released by their dismembering. But I don’t want anyone in our family or neighborhood to get seriously hurt by a falling tree trunk, heavy branches or limbs. Our adjoining neighbors have little kids. We have a 14-year-old daughter.

One of my favorite sounds is the wind blowing through the trees, lifting the leaves, then moving on through the world. It is a gentle music to keep the heart calm and serene. (Perhaps they should broadcast this sound in high-stress locations, such as the New York Stock Exchange or barber shops?)

There will be a little less of that sound near our house now.

But, as in most things, we have the opportunity to make new life amidst setbacks.

As soon as the chainsaws accomplished their work, four days after the storm, my wife and I were thinking about what seedlings we could plant in the yard to grow new trees.

They’ll be smaller this time.

At this point, I’d prefer to plant trees that can’t grow any taller than the superhero Ant-Man, but then again, they would be a little hard to see.

Actually, I’ve been thinking about planting Emerald Green Arborvitae or Dwarf Pines – trees that can’t grow any taller than Groucho Marx.

Michael Gold has published articles in The Washington Post, The Albany Times-Union and The New York Daily News.

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