The river birch came to us as a five foot tall bare root tree. Our new house was under construction, and when the tree arrived there still was a lot of serious grading work being done, and other heavy equipment was moving around what was to be our yard. Of course, when we ordered the tree late in the previous year, the plan was that this heavy work was to be done by then, but you know how construction goes.
So I proposed that we “heel in” the tree for a few weeks until the site seemed safer. We dug a shallow trench well away from the action, laid the tree somewhat on its side and covered the roots loosely with dirt. I’ll admit that I was surprised later to find out that the tree survived this experience just fine.
As the years went by, the tree grew taller and more attractive. There was only one fly in the ointment. Along the way, it developed a large side branch that was growing almost like a second trunk. Hugh kept arguing that this branch needed to be removed, and I kept insisting that the surgery would be too radical and that the tree would be just fine. Words that would come back to haunt me.
December 23rd was a snowy day here that only proceeded to get worse as the day warmed up. The snow turned to sleet off and on, with a little hail thrown in for grins. That night it progressed into light rain, quite an unpleasant combination.
We woke up on Christmas Eve to find everything coated in ice.
And the river birch was split in two.
It looked as if some giant had come by and hewn the tree in half with an enormous ax.
There is a sad grace to the broken tree. Even today, almost two weeks later and with the ice long gone, the two halves still almost touch the ground.
And I have admitted that I was wrong to not let the tree be pruned.
Good bye, friend.