Sometimes gravity can be overwhelming to a tree.
Gravity can be hard on people too, but today I’m talking about the larger of those two oak trees whose trunks are shown here, in summer, just beyond the roses and the board fence.
Yesterday the tree on the right fell over.
It’s one of our giant old native Oregon oaks. There are only maybe two more of this age surviving still on our small bit of land. I counted the rings on a fallen one once– about 360 years, and this one will be like that too. A wise old plant, gone on to be born again, I hope, as a dolphin or a dancer or something else that has a good time and gets to move around a lot.
This tree gone horizontal wasn’t a surprise really. We’ve had a good deal of wind and rain, and the roots, like much of the tree’s interior, looked to be failing. Other people might have cut it down, but it did grow beautiful leaves every summer, and really it seemed it might outlive us in the end. (Okay sometimes we call our place the Home For Geriatric Oak Trees.)
It fell east, as we knew it would, since the limbs were weighted that way. It was away from my house and across the rather wild garden where I grow native plants and trees. At the far side it smashed the woven wire fence that keeps the neighbor’s sheep out, so Mr O and I did some long cold hours cutting branches and repairing the fence last night, right up until dark. We came inside then, both of us moaning about how hard that was, and had a very late but welcome dinner. (Please do not feel compelled to mention the work that awaits us in dealing with the tons of wood to be cut and managed–I really don’t want to think about that right now.)
When it fell the big tree’s vast trunk came to rest on a path I had made, and missed hitting almost every tree and shrub. One young maple was broken, but two similar ones survived, as well as several delicate young fir trees, the Oceanspray shrub, all the cedars, a lilac, a vine maple, native birches… I was so grateful that the old oak took care to skirt these other plants. It was really a kind of miracle, because there were some very big limbs down in addition to the trunk.
–and the other.
The tree also kindly did not fall on Max.
He was outside alone during the event, in the vicinity of the oak. I was outside too, but on the other side of the house. I heard him barking– I think the tree might have been making noises, cracking slowly, as it went into the fall. Then came the terrible sound of it hitting the earth, and still Max was barking.
So I thank this tree, for the summers of shade, which we and the garden beds below will miss, and for reclining to the earth in such a graceful and careful way, sparing more other life than I had any reason to hope for.
Here is another old image of the oak, from last year. The tree did have huge limbs, up in the sky, but at people level it was a column.