St. Francis And The Live Oak

June 10, 2021. Today brought closure to stress related to our 500-year-old live oak – steadily declining the past ten years in spite of treatment for oak wilt disease. The crew came Tuesday, again Wednesday, again this morning to bring down the last of the five trunks growing from a common base. Agile men scrambled up, up into the branches with chain saws and ropes. Sections of limbs were lassoed, then cut free to swing downward at calculated angles that precluded damage to yaupons growing up and through live oak, as well as fence and crew members. An amazing display of skills and teamwork!

They arrived this morning just as I began a zoom session focused on becoming a peace agent, letting the St. Francis Prayer guide current life – my current thoughts dominated by chain saws. Just as the zoom concluded, the crew pulled away, leaving only the stump and my swirl of memories of the former tree: first glimpse in 1986 while shopping for a house in this area; my teenage son casually perched on one of the overhanging limbs calling down “Hey, Mom!”; prolific bird visitations (even one raven); cat chasing squirrel among the branches (squirrel retreating on underside of branch beneath confused cat); and many private conversations between me and tree.

Relieved that the inevitable is now behind us – tomorrow we begin restoring yard art and flowerpots moved out of the crew’s way – including statues of Buddha and St. Francis. A few flower pots will be placed on trunk pedestals – still huggable.

24 thoughts on “St. Francis And The Live Oak

  1. Oh…my…god those pictures! Wow, what a change that will be. I witnessed similar dismantling like you described once, with the lassoes and coordinated effort. Really amazing to behold. Hope you get some new light and peace from dealing with that Jazz. Odd the memories though.

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    1. The first day I was constantly taking photos, amazed at the logistics. The second day I took a few more photos, focused on demise … adventure thrill faded into reality of “gone”. Today we’re putting back a jillion potted plants and bird feeders and bird bath, all now in a bit brighter “new light”. I scooped up six 5-gallon buckets (!) of sawdust getting Budda’s spot ready for his return. And yeah, I feel at peace with what remains. Thanks, Bill.

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      1. Ah, what remains. I’ve overcome my sentiment about taking out trees but it’s different when they’re attached to personal memories of course. I get wistful looking at a kids swing thing on one of our branches, so it goes…

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    1. Thanks, Ken. Definitely an emotional experience. I have photos of that tree from 1986 forward – can revisit memories via images. I insisted the stumps be left high enough to hug – they’ll last longer than I’m likely to.

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  2. Oh, I so like this poem and love the line about hugging the stump! Your communion with that oak is something to be cherished, something I can certainly relate to, Jazz. And some profound questions to begin my day…

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    1. Thank you, Lynne – the synchronicity of trying to participate in a zoom session with power tools buzzing and our quiet-spoken leader asking us to look at “right now” through St. Francis eyes was quite startling. Fascinating how things line up (collide?) for added emphasis!

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    1. Thank you – transition indeed – will take us several days to get all the things cleared away in a hurry put back, doing a bit of rearranging as we proceed, a lot less of a rush in this phase – pondering what goes atop the stumps (planters? yard art? left vacant for perching myself once in awhile?)

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  3. Wow! Connected as I am to our backyard tree, I feel this. I remember the live oaks – spectacular trees. I love how you’ve called upon a higher power and found resilience. Such a heartfelt and empowering write, Jazz, reaching beyond the loss of a beloved tree.

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    1. VJ, thanks – I spent yesterday afternoon/evening with photos and St. Francis Prayer and my spinning emotions all tangling together. Today I’m calm, reflective – relieved the decision is no longer hanging over me.

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  4. What a gorgeous tree. I can feel your loss all the way from here. But sometimes it is best to cease the suffering of another. I am glad you have a piece of this friend to still hug. Did you have a chance to anoint the tree with your tears?

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    1. Thank you, LuAnne. Yes, tree remains have been anointed – I’ve shared tears with that tree many times over the years! If this tree had been in a pasture, we’d’ve left it alone, let Nature take her sweet time. But limbs extended over our roof, over our driveway, and over the street – hazards we worried about. Interesting, we had to go through a city permitting process – these big trees are protected. Only when presenting a hazard can they be taken down.

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  5. Wow Jazz! I started to tear up with your beginning description of events and was blinking back a few tears as I read your poem. I am moved by trees getting chopped down, disease or not. When we finally cut down a large hackberry tree, I insisted on keeping about 5 feet of stump. We have adorned it with various ceramic suns and a stone gargoyle sits on top. And I too have both a St. Francis statue and a Buddha statue too. Thanks for this homage to the 500 year old tree.

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    1. Betty, thank you – nudging me toward yard art – hubby and I are hesitating right now, his concern the proximity of the front sidewalk – possibility planters might walk away. Some sort of anchoring for either plants or yard art makes sense. Or, we may go with his vision of passiflora rooted in the ground, climbing in clumps over the stump. (I’m not sure he envisions me stepping into the passiflora for stump hugs …) For now, stump serves as stage for our ginger cat’s reclining/twisting show – must feel good against her back; maybe she’s marking it as “hers” before some neighbor cat gets too interested?

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  6. Devastated is right – why did I not take photos of this full tree back in its prime? I am left with vivid memories, and those suffice to recognize the extent of demise, the necessity to take the remains down before they fell onto roofs/vehicles/pedestrians. But but but … I miss my old friend. (Thanks for understanding.)

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