A tree has fallen

Featured image: The maple had to go before it fell.

Cogitation 30 Saturday 06 October 2018   The maple tree in our back yard needed to go.

Two arborists examined our dear maple. One of them injected it with two dozen vials of medicine in the spring, but the leaves on the failing side did not respond.. By winter the snow and ice could split it in two.

We had it cut down this week.

The tree, A Norway maple, had shaded our house in the morning, given cover to birds and squirrels, and greeted us daily with a welcoming out-of-doors sensibility. For more than 35 years we watched it grow from a volunteer seedling into a mature tree. On Monday, a crew from Dogwood Hills Tree Farm expertly cut it down.

Gone is the maple’s treeness.  Gone are the leaves that would soon turn a golden yellow. Gone is the sense of a backyard friend for human and for animal. Gone are the qualities that make for a living tree.

Thankfully, the neighbors will saw up limbs and trunk for firewood. The stump will provide a base for a flower container. Still, despite the practical uses for the maple, a living piece of nature has gone. The removal enhanced our view, but shrouded a part of me.

A friend, Ray Schlegel, at coffee on Friday, softened my lament with these consoling words: “It is still a tree. It’s a tree-plus.”

There are poems and songs about trees. Sermons about trees. Scientific data about the role of trees. There are precious stories about special trees in one’s life.

When I was in my early teens I had to prove to myself that I could climb a tall tree in the back woods of our family farm. I shudder at the memory of the danger it posed, I climbed a partially branchless tree–might have been an elm or oak–and caught my breath at the top. No one ever knew, until now. Why? It might have been a climb of discovery, self assertion; I don’t think I was trying to be Hercules. I just did it; shimmied up and back down to solid ground.

It may have been part of engaging my own treeness, something whispered through tree leaves or soughed through oak branches in winter.

Some trees stand for ages, others pass.


Goodbye friend


I’m almost at a loss for words, just like the long-ago seminary student of Spurgeon. The teacher had students come forward to give an extemporaneous sermon. One student opened the note on which he was to preach and all it said was, “Zacchaeus.”

The student thought for a moment and then delivered his sermon: “Zacchaeus was a little man, so am I; Zacchaeus made haste and came down, and so do I.” Whatever we do, it’s good to think on one’s feet, maintain a sense of humor, and avoid being up too many trees.


Gathered with some of the siblings and spouses

Siblings and spouses gathered at the home of Sandy and Joy Bender in Guelph, Ontario for a Thanksgiving meal at a senior centre next door to their condo. Missing were Kaye and Murray Meadows. Brian, husband of Vivian, died last July. Recent articles in two farm magazines mention the role Brian had in creatively extending the reach of Cassel Mennonite Church across its rural neighborhood, including a monthly winter coffee and donut gathering for area farmers and other residents.
Colours in Riverside Park, Guelph.


Tall ancestral trees line a road in southern Michigan

Old, stately trees line a road near Niles, Michigan.
A sycamore tree leans over the St Joseph River on the Riverfront Trail in Niles, Michigan.
A quote more suited to a mountainous area than a Michigan corn field, but timely: “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” Jon Muir, Our National Parks, 1901.


Good example of tree education in New Hamburg, Wilmot Township, Ontario



Our maple in its once autumn treeness




Last Sunday we attended the wedding of Sarah and Jonathon. Three clerics led the ceremony. We witnessed the formation of a new family tree, a new tributary, a new commitment to share God’s peace with each other and the world. We celebrate the blessing of newness in all creation.



4 thoughts on “A tree has fallen

  1. Having sat beside or beneath your maple tree many times, I can imagine the sense of loss you feel. But what a lovely way to honor the tree’s removal with this moving essay!


  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this piece, John. What a treat to receive these emails weekly!

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    1. Thanks, Marcia. We now have a number of oak trees in our back yard. And, wouldn’t you know it, squirrels to entertain us. Glad for the folks who planted the trees. Or maybe the squirrels did it.


  3. Hello John,

    It is hard to say goodbye to old friends, and that Maple was certainly an old friend to you and Marty! Somehow it seems fitting as you are ending your time on the River, the old Tree decides to also take its leave.

    Happy Belated Thanksgiving! It looks like you had another fun family visit in Guelph. Ginger and I will be celebrating the American Thanksgiving with my mother in Toledo, Ohio. She is 99 years old!

    Monty & Ginger



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