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between-our-steps-10-03-18-doubleJust beyond our farm stands a maple with a vertical, curved scar. Part of the tree was ripped away by the tornado that crossed the road nearby. The three barns that blew apart have been rebuilt as newer, modern structures so that one could almost forget. Except, the tree still tells the story of that late afternoon violent storm.

Last week, I went out to take pictures of a few of the trees I want to remember, trees with a story of their own.

In the fence row south of the house, the tree's story is a bit of a mystery. The roots are buried in the rocks, and the trunk, about thirty centemeters in diameter, goes straight up for a meter. Then, it bends in a gentle curve until it heads at a 45 degree angle for the ground. Just before it touches, it bends upward again reaching several meters into the air. The curve provides a lovely swinging seat.

bent-treeMy only guess is that when the tree was young, it got bent over with heavy wet snow. When it did not break and instead kept growing, it touched the ground and turned upward again.

The ancient apple tree in the front yard is the last of what was an orchard around the house. It is scared by the stumps of large branches that have broken off the last few years. There is a hollow on one side where peleated wood peckers love to dig. Someday, that hollow will deepen enough that the rest of the tree will fall. In the meantime, it produces apples. This year, when frost hit most of the buds on our wild apples, this one produced abundantly.

Deep in the woods is another hollow tree, this time a beech. It's an old tree, eighty centimeters across. This trunk is hollow all the way up, so if you put your head in the crack, you see sky. The outer layer is still alive, so the tree leafs out each spring, holds a green canopy all summer.

Part way out the lane stands the oldest tree on the farm. A huge maple that it would take two people to reach around spreads a wide canopy shading lane and land. In its roots is a small round hole. This year, leaves litter the entry, but many summers, the path to the inside is clear and polished. Some creature shelters underneath these roots.

Around the house, I planted trees. There were none but the apples when I came. I planted spruce to the north to protect from the wind. These are now a towering, thick copse sheltering the house from winter winds and the birds all year.

I also planted pines and cedars to protect the lane from snow drifts. They have helped but they created another problem. After I planted the trees, one of our hydro poles broke and we had to replace the line from the road. The third pole was placed among the young trees. Now, they have to be trimmed every year because otherwise their tops would reach into the wires.

Fortunately, when we replaced the phone wire, it was buried. Eventually the spruce I planted along the north side of the yard will reach the old phone wire, but this won't matter.

I have watched the progress of disease among the trees. Each spring, I move dead elms off the lane and fields. We have a couple trees immune to the disease, so we get saplings. They don't, however, share the parent's immunity.

Butternuts struggle to survive. They are straggly but alive. It is hard to watch them slowly lose the battle.

There are trees at our new house, a small birch, some sumac, a blue spruce someone planted. I never planted this kind of tree, though my parents did at every house they owned. I planted a pussy willow each time I moved. I will have to get a branch next spring and find a spot for it.

Cathy Hird will be living on the shore near Big Bay.


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