Monday, December 26, 2016

The End Is In Sight

When we found this land nearly one quarter of a century ago, a sizable group of horses spent their summers here confined only by a perimeter fence.  Their free grazing combined with roaming wherever they pleased preserved the grassy meadows.  Second growth saplings were trampled down along with briers and Japanese honeysuckles.  The top of the gravel bank hill was crowned with a single  impressive red maple tree.  We refereed to it as the sentinel as it stood guard over a large part of our newly acquired land.  Expecting it to outlast our time here, we were disappointed to see it too is showing serious signs of age.

Red maple trees have a curious growth habit.  The main trunk is twisted and short giving way to several massive and tall secondary trunks.  The site of this branching frequently collects moisture which starts the rot that will in time fell the tree.

This cavity may have once been filled by an upper trunk.  Nearby ground shows no signs that it once held rotting wood.  Becky remembers that a large section fell toward the downhill side of the tree.  A return trip here will likely reveal the rotting remains of the fallen trunk on the far side of the tree.   Whatever the cause of this large opening, its presence spells a dismal future for this once proud giant.  Located at the top of a hill, the tree is exposed to all of the winds.  Some storm will snap off one of the remaining trunks.  It appears to me that the section at the right will fall next.

Our time on this land has taught us many lessons.  We knew that our time here was finite but we expected that the large trees would outlast us.  Sadly some big red maples are falling faster than we are.  That fact could be seen as our good fortune as we continue to mostly enjoy our time here.

This old print shows both the sentinel maple in all of its youthful majesty and our stone square before any planting beds were prepared.  Our best guess dates this view as 1995 or 1996.  One thing is certain.  The sentinel maple looked impressive.

Writing this post has in some ways been a humbling experience.  I now clearly recall when this tree lost its center upper trunk.  The solid globe of green leaves became deeply divided by a v shaped mass of blue sky.  The remaining two trunks rather quickly filled the newly opened void with green and our focus turned elsewhere.  It is surprising how completely this event was forgotten.

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