Good bye old friend – I think that I will never see a poem as lovely as a tree

Aug 30

Today is a very sad day. I don’t know if many of you have heard of the pine beetle or not. It has been devastating the pine forests in the mountains of Colorado for several years now. We saw a similar epidemic on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska several years ago when we were visiting. Over a million acres of forest in the Kenai have been killed by the beetle in Alaska in the last 20 years or so. And now we have watched the lush green forests along I70 and Berthoud Pass here in Colorado deteriorate slowly in to a sea of brown sticks. Each time we drive to the mountains a larger swath of the green is gone. It has been so sad to watch but today it came home to rest in my backyard.

Our house is on three acres that we selected because of the old growth Ponderosa Pines. Before we bought the lot I walked it with a Native America shaman who “talked” to the trees and the landscape. They had been here many years and bore the scars of storms and droughts along their rugged trunks. We had the plans drawn for our house to make sure that we saved every tree on the land. They were a part of the land and we wanted them undisturbed. Alas, the pine beetle has made its way to Parker, Colorado. We’ve been spraying for the beetles every year since the epidemic started. It can help but isn’t fool proof, especially if everyone surrounding you doesn’t spray too. The large farm behind us doesn’t spray. It would probably be much too expensive with the number of trees they have.

Before we left for Africa, we notice that the top of one of our oldest and largest trees had some dying foliage. We hoped that it was just the dry weather but didn’t have time to check before we left. After we returned the neighbor who liveson the other side of the tree stopped by our house one evening. He had his trees guys look at it and it definitely had the beetle – $1,000 to remove it. We called Swingles, our tree service, and they came by. Yes, it was definitely the beetle and something else was attacking it. It had tried hard to defend itself but wasn’t going to make it. He said it was the oldest tree in the cluster between our house and the neighbors. It had to come down. At least they were cheaper – $750. I wanted to cry for my beautiful old tree.

They arrived this morning. As I write this they are out there arranging their equipment to take him down piece by piece. This is a tree that is several hundred years old. It has survived so much. Why now?

This has renewed my interest in what is going on with our forests in the mountains. There is a forest conservation group focused on the beetle epidemic They need your help. The beetle has severely impacted the Arapahoe/Roosevelt, White River, Medicine Bow and Routt National Forests in the West.

It reminds me of a poem I used to love from my childhood. It was in a book of poems illustrated by Joan Walsh Anglund but the poem is by Joyce Kilmer.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

With tears in my eyes, the buzz of the chain saw and the crash of my dear felled tree I bit you farewell for the day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *