It’s just a stupid old oak tree, I keep telling myself, while I sit at the kitchen table and watch the white winter sunlight bathing its branches. It’s dying, I say, as I wipe away tears and busy myself with numbing, necessary tasks. Its branches are dropping and it’s trying to tell us and it’s going to kill someone in the process, I think, on frigid, windy nights when its massive canopy creaks and arches over yards humming earlier in the day with shrieking children and yapping dogs.
It’s necessary, I explain to a neighbor, when I inform them of the date of the tree’s removal and apologize for the noise that will result: the high-pitched, agonizing whine of machinery and the rumble of fiber and cellular structure succumbing to it, the bark of hard-hatted, leathery men directing its demise. I don’t mention the opaque, blanketing quiet that will remain, after the cherry picker truck has driven away, and the sawdust filters into the grass. But I will hear that, too.
It’s gone, I will whisper to myself next spring, when the maples unfurl their polynoses and the crocuses burst forth from the warming earth, and when I still see its mottled bark in the swath of negative space that remains, even though the light shines more brightly in its absence.
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