Two dying fruit trees in the front lawn. Both leaning over, pulling on the green tape, the support poles. Scratching the top of my back when I’m trying to cut the goddamned grass on the tractor. Tufts of moss on the branches now, deep winter. Time to go.
I take to the big one with the loppers: down come the branches like locks of hair at the barber shop, a thicket of twigs. I’ll need to deal with that later, the other part of the brain that deals with order, restoration.
The lopper meets the limits of my physical strength, the mechanical advantage, the strength of the tree fighting back, the skin cut bright green, the wood marrow-white. It snaps like a bone and the branch goes down with a thud, on the ground.
I clip the branches in uniform lengths, begin the stack. Some I snap with my hands, others get the loppers. There are branches everywhere, soon they move to the stack.
The tree is now cut down to stumps, to what I can manage with the loppers. I can see the outline of the root ball beneath the grass and moss, maybe if I get on top of the tree and pull at it, I can just rip it out of the ground.
I get up in the tree and sense the neighbors, looking out their windows, saying, come, look at this…
I grab on, jounce the tree, and start rocking the root ball. A root snaps, makes a wet pop like a rope breaking. My breath is getting sharp but I keep up the rocking, any moment it will pop out.
I think better of it and get down. The tree is on its side now, the top touching the ground, beaten with its tongue hanging out, on the driveway. I jump on it again and rock it from the other side. I get underneath and prop my shoulder against its body to push it up, but it cuts into my shoulder, it’s no use.
You can pay somebody to do this kind of thing for you, or you can get your hands dirty and do it yourself. It’s less about saving the money and more about the satisfaction of the wood stack, drying the logs and kindling out all summer, then burning it around a fire deep into the night, knowing you did it yourself.