Friday, October 8, 2010

Love Hurts, Mr. Vine

All too often, our favorite things are also the source of our greatest anxieties: career ambitions, romantic partners, giant pine trees... The things we love keep us awake at night, make us reconsider choices, make us promise to do better, find the answer, work harder.

I was drawn to the pine trees from the very beginning. They're the tallest trees on the block, towering over the rows of single-story Utah ramblers like those rare and beautiful 7th grade girls who sway above the boys with grace and elegance instead of scrunching downwards into the offending spine, the emerging collarbones, the chin, the leg. These pine trees were content to be tall.

They are not, however, identical. The first one -- the one closest to the house, is a different kind (note: already I am comparing her as if the other were the standard; she is different) with branches that are all single swoops without any divergences. They sway like cartoon Snuffleupagus trunks in the wind, back and forth, up and down. They mock dramatic weather with their gentle circles, buoyant ease. Occasionally, I worry that her elephantine branches are too close to my new roof, that she will drop too many needles in my gutters (oh wait, I haven't put my gutter back on -- Add To Do), or in the midst of an especially powerful gust, the grace of her limbs will be pushed to the limit, twisting something until it goes *twang* and tumbles down and pierces through the shingles, tar-paper, OSB and rafters and goes into the attic. Sometimes, knowing exactly the make-up of your shelter gives you leave to worry about it even more. But most of the time, I trust this tree. Everybody likes a Snufflsupagus: simple, slow-moving, and predictably endearing.

The second one -- the bigger one, in the back yard -- is denser and darker and more complicated. She is thicker at the base, with branching limbs that nest above in thatches and droops. She is also the one that has been twined around and around with ivy: vines as thick as my wrist grow from the base up into the canopy, twisting out alone the lower limbs and drooping down long curtains of dense foliage. This is tree I love and worry over in the wind, in the rain, when I think of the Ice Storm of 1991 in Rochester NY when all the trees were pulled down limb by limb from the weight of the ice that formed in thick, clear, brilliant flesh around every imaginable surface area. The violence caused over night was gorgeous, silent, and without mercy. This is the tree I worried about when I bought the house, when I leave the house, when I come home to the house. This is the tree that hosts the owl's nest near the top, above the clot of ivy choking the thick trunk, above the bench Jason and I scavenged from a pile of loose shingles and roofing materials on the side of the road four years ago, that my mother sewed cushion covers for that we stuffed with left-over camping foam after the road trip when J and I drove his new car from Michigan to Utah, following his return from Africa. This is the tree I worry about when I sit on the same bench that Jason fixed a couple weeks ago, using his drill gun to reattached the leg that had fallen off in transit, using the hand-sander to polish off the fuzz of aged wood splinters, using linseed oil to condition it for winter and bring out the grain. This is the tree that I worry about when we grill vegetarian Italian Sausage on two prong sticks above a fire in the grill that technically belongs to Erik but at this point I think we have squatter's rights, and besides, Jason got him a newer, better one anyway, I think. This is the tree.

So while I indulged in ambient anxiety, listening to the fall rain patter off the roof and plink against the tops of the paint cans I still have piled up outside my back porch door, Jason asked The Google what to do about our friend the vine.

Don't get me wrong. I liked the vine. It had big, lush leaves that shaded the summer's hot and drip-dropped the rain into a thin mist during our wet fall. I loved how it sent out spines of roots along the trunk of the pine, weaving itself into the bark, the bone, the marrow. But as we suspected, beauty kills, and eventually, even the loving ivy will overpower its pine host.

I took my saw-knife (it came in a 2-pack for $12.99 at Home Depot with a set of garden clippers) and I cut the vine off at the base. Then, Jason continued to cut another root, at the other base. And another root, around the back. Without the life-blood of the ground, our ivy began to wither.

Fall is here. The ivy leaves are brown and crumpled, but not quite ready to be dead. When they're weak enough, I'll pull them down in long strands from the tree. I'll try to do it when the owl isn't home, so I don't disturb him. We will not burn them, because The Google also told us that many vines give off toxins when in fire. Also, do not each the berries, even though they are pretty.

The backyard is a wild place, but even this year, we'll do our best to prevent my favorite pine tree from falling down on top of my house in the middle of the night with one great thumping SQUASH. Even wilderness appreciates a little pruning. Love hurts, my friend the vine. Sometimes you have to cut back in order to grow forward.

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