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Published: Sunday, 4/22/2012

Loss of big ash tree leaves a hole in yard and heart

BY MARY ALICE POWELL
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

Joyce Kilmer's poem Trees can bring tears once you have lost the prize tree in the yard. The poem is like a eulogy to the giant 50-foot ash when I read:

I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree...

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.

The big ash in the center of my lake-front yard had those happy attributes and more.

Now it is spread hither and yon. Part of it is stacked as firewood at two homes. The prize trunk lengths gathered by scavengers were shipped to a sawmill to become lumber. The remaining stump was cut down to leave a five-foot pedestal to hold a planter.

Why not have the stump removed? You soon learn that tree-cutting is done in sections and the price increases accordingly. You can have the tree cut down and left, cut down and cleaned up, or cut down, cleaned up, and the stump removed. The stump removal generally is another $100 to $150, so I am keeping the big ash stump and the remains of the six others that have been destroyed as reminders of a bygone landscape at Posey Lake.

I grew up in Adrian but I had never heard of Posey Lake, 12 miles away, until I began searching for lake property. Lakeside country living is fresh air, lots of trees, and all that malarkey, but it does not come without disappointments. The tree loss has been a major heartache and expense in my two-acre world.

The majestic tree that was a beacon for several families since the house was built in 1920 was a haven in spring for birds building their nests. The limbs were perfect for birdhouses. The sprawling branches provided plenty of shade for summer picnics and fall hobo dinners. The large hook on a lower limb was a clue that once it had held a child's swing. The base was large enough to encircle with flagstones and eight planters of pink geraniums.

The emerald ash beetles that chew the inside of a healthy tree into mincemeat found my favorite tree several years ago. I fought the inevitable for three years when fewer and fewer leaves appeared in spring, always hoping that the medicine I applied might help.

It could have stood there as a lifeless skeleton forever. An artistic wood carver could have turned it into a piece of art or even a Paul Bunyan-sized chair. I have also seen dead trees with branches that are painted in a rainbow of colors. None of this for my ash tree.

"Let it go. Hurry. I don't want to watch."

I want to believe that replacing the lost tree, despite the cost, is the good news. You could say the old ash was free. Its replacement was $229, plus $110 to plant it, and $30 to deliver it. The 14-foot scarlet maple is only three inches around; a juvenile in the world of trees. Even though it is said to be a fast grower I am not planning to enjoy a picnic under its branches, but just knowing others will some day is consolation.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com.



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