When we bought our property twenty years ago, it was surrounded with pines and dense hemlocks. Often, I sat in my backyard in pajamas, sipping coffee on weekend mornings because no one could possibly see me. Our adjacent neighbor’s property was so thick with evergreens, a previous owner named the acreage “The Hemlocks,” and proclaimed it with a rustic sign still hanging beside his driveway.
After a few years though, a blight called the Wooly Adelgid attacked the lands surrounding our home. Petite, cottony balls appeared on the undersides of branches. Trees began to yellow, loose their needles and fail. In their weakened state, our hemlocks were no match for wind or snow. Many snapped or tipped. As of today, we have few left and those that remain are gasping.
About five years ago, one of the neighbor’s trees broke about midway, wedging itself on one of our our own specimens, leaving a dangerous bridge over the stone wall edging our property lines. He had the top of the tree removed, but left a jagged trunk with horror-movie branches, and although it blended with his remaining trees, it acted as a visual reminder of the devastation caused by a pest imported from Asia last century. This spring, he had fourteen more dead hemlocks removed. To my disappointment, he left the remains of the tree that had tipped over the wall. With nothing behind it; the skeleton branches catch my eye whenever I look toward my garden.
When our time comes to remove trees, I plan to contact him to ask if we can have the offending trunk removed. In the meantime, I look at it regularly and sigh for the memory of that which used to thrive around us. And while I can't change that the trees are gone, at least last night I had a reminder that sometimes beauty ends up being about perspective.
Because, when I looked out the window after supper, this is what I witnessed.