Monday, November 2, 2009


I’m sure I’m not the only one in the north who feels this way, but at this time of the year, I’m more acutely aware of change. Perhaps it’s because much of the change involves the leaving of things whose stay seems all too brief—the songbirds and buds of spring, the blossoms and fireflies of high summer, the fruits and colors of autumn. But winter brings other birds to the feeders, unveils intricate patterns in bare branches against the somber sky, gives different vistas of the lake.

There have been some changes at my place. My next-door neighbors came for a few days to check on things before winter. For the forty-plus years they’ve owned it, it’s served as a cottage; they live elsewhere. Now in their late 80s, they’ve decided they’ll soon be putting it up for sale. They don’t come often, usually spend only about six days a year, so it makes sense. But one thing that didn’t make sense was why, on their recent visit, the husband went out with his pruning saw and cut down the beautiful old lilac bush that stood between our houses. He started with the suckers, but didn’t stop until he had cut the entire thing down to a series of ugly stumps. Now, to be fair, I have to say that although it straddled the property line, it was his bush, his tree, really—it was nearly up to the eaves on my house, and had wonderful gnarled and twisted trunks. In summer it bloomed in deep purple and a shoot one white on one side. He said he planted it over thirty years ago. What possessed him to cut it like that I’ll never know, and I was too upset to ask. I was afraid I’d only sputter my anger out, and what would be the point of that. Perhaps he felt the need to revisit his younger days when, according to his wife, he was quite the gardener. I clung to that thought, that in some nostalgic way, it pleased him to cut the tree down to the ground; it was the only way I could forgive him for the act. Once he’s finished, he observed, “It’ll come back.” There’s a weak chance that, given enough time and care, it might, but he certainly won't live to see it, and likely, neither will I if it took almost forty years to grow it the first time. And it made even less sense since they’re going to be putting the place up for sale. There’s no curb appeal to stumps.

After thinking about this a while, I called them at their home and asked permission to remove the stumps and plant something in it’s place…now there is a nice little Colorado blue spruce standing where the lilacs once bloomed. I’ll still miss the lilac, especially this winter. It was where I hung my birdfeeders, and attracted lots of winter birds that felt safe feeding in the shelter of the mass of twigs. I posted photos and blogged about it a lot last year. Perhaps after a couple of seasons the spruce will be strong enough to support a feeder, but for now, it must simply grow.

After the new tree was all planted I walked along the breakwall, and looked for a familiar rock that always amuses me. It’s not a rock actually, but a chunk of an old sidewalk that someone named Don F (or maybe Don P, it’s hard to make out) wrote his name in. There’s also the number 15. Could he have stood over the setting cement as long ago as 1915? More likely it was 15th day of some month, decades ago. Whatever the story is, a new sidewalk has doubtless been poured, and the old one now adds strength to the divide between my yard and Lake Erie. And Don, wherever he may be, probably never wonders what happened to it. I’m the custodian of it now, just as I am of the little spruce. And perhaps I’ll be moving along one day, too. Change.


Sylvia K said...

What a beautiful post, Deb! I'm so sad for the lilac tree! Can't help but wonder what he was thinking, or perhaps that's the problem, he was thinking back, not forward. Still, it's sad and I would have felt the same way you do. Glad you at least got a replacement. The "Don" rock is interesting, too. Glad it has a new home.

Have a good day, stay warm!


bobbie said...

"Don" may have been 15 years old?

I feel your pain over the lilac.When I sold my house in NY I left behind lovely hedges and other things. When I drove down that street some time later, I discovered everything had been cut down or pulled out of the ground. I could never bring myself to drive down that street again. At least they spared the pink and white dogwood.

Poetikat said...

I did that to the lilac in my backgarden about 5 years ago because the leaves were blighted. It will come back. As long as he didn't uproot it, it will be back, better than ever! It may take a while, but it will.
Mine is in perfect shape now and I trust the one near you will revive.

Perhaps he just started with the suckers and got carried away. That can happen—you lose yourself in the task and before you know it, you've pruned something down to a stick.

Poetikat said...

There's a new product in your word verification: "dentasol"

It's a new toothpaste from Mexico that gives you a sunny smile.

Quiet Paths said...

I became unsettled reading about the lilac bush as tho' it happened next door to us. What a mystery people can sometimes be. The only thing I could add, watching my 80 year old Dad pruning apple trees, is this: once they (old men) get going it is hard to quit. I wager he wasn't all that popular inside when the wife saw what he'd done. Good for you and that cute little spruce. Nice choice.

Lin Floyd said...

I've heard of men who prune like that, must be a feeling of power. good that you were able to plant something in its place. how true, nothing as constant as change..

SandyCarlson said...

Oh, you got me with this one. That bush....Drat! My dad is a great believer in the Power of Pruning to make things grow. Very weird concept to hold onto when you're down to stumps.

I like your approach to things, though. You cooled off my hot head.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Even if the lilac wasn't on your property, it seems as if the neighbors would have asked you first. That's just good manners. Oh Well--at least you have something else planted there now... People can be strange, can't they???? (of course not me or thee).... ha


Cloudia said...

you changed my mood to pensive enjoyment!

Aloha, Friend!

Comfort Spiral

magiceye said...

fascinating post on the constancy of change!

Ramblings of a Villas Girl said...

Hi Deborah! I can feel your anger. I never understood why people feel the need to 'kill' trees and scrubs. It doesn't make sense that he did this, but your blue spruce will take root and offer the birds shelter. Lisa

Kathiesbirds said...

Oh Deborah, this story broke my heart and made me angry too! I love lilacs! I love old twisty branches. None of it makes any sense to me at all! One day your spruce will offer shelter to the birds, but it is a slow grower and will take time. Still, I am glad you did something. I hope the birds will return to you! Have you decided on a new place for your feeders?

mom/caryn said...

I felt such a sadness as I read of the loss of the lilac that had brought so much pleasure to you and the birds you host each year. I can't imagine his reasoning... but, it no doubt made sense to him when he did it.

My hubby is a firm believer in pruning and cutting out suckers or new growth that might inhibit the sun hitting where he thinks it should. It drives mne completely crazy!!We-ve had quite a few er, um, uhhh... discussions about it. I will say that every tree he's ever pruned (or over pruned in my mind) has grown stronger and even more beautiful a year or so after he's completed his brutal task. DRAT! I hate that he just may be right about it.

The day will come when somone will look at the lil spruce tree in awe and wonder and love both it's branches and the birds that nest in them. Hopefully it will be you.

Rose said...

Deb, I feel just heartsick about the lilac! I suppose I would have cried had I been there. I really do wonder why...and since they are going to put it up for sale, it makes no sense whatsoever.