Friday, August 6, 2010

Something There is That Doesn't Love a Wall And Wants it Down ...

I awoke this morning to find that the Himalayan tree in my front yard had been behaving badly. Since it is one of the most beautiful features of the house, and since one expects beauties to suffer a little temperament, we are somewhat used to this. Branches will crash down from time to time.

But this time the cedrus deodara took out part of my fence, and that is a no-no. Plus, my niece was visiting a few days ago and had parked her car in exactly the spot where the limb came down this morning: we were lucky she wasn't still here today or her pretty new Prius would have gotten smooshed.

The tree was a small shrub when my parents bought the house a half century ago. In fact, there were two small deodara that framed the end of the driveway. But over the years, the one on the side adjacent to the front lawn got all the water from the lawn sprinklers and the other was gradually dwarfed by it. The landscaper must not have known that these ancient trees have a lifespan of at least a century and can grow to enormous heights or he wouldn't have thought of planting two of them as one would have--and has--been more than sufficient.

The deodara on a quieter day in a photo I took looking out from the house toward the street.

The cedrus deodara is a native of one of the most beautiful regions of the world: the Vale of Kashmir. Kashmir borders modern Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India and its beauty, they say, is so great that those countries and many other conquerors have fought over it for millennia. There are forests of deodara there where the people of those lands believe sacred spirits dwell.

Looking up into the deodara's branches.

Their mystical belief is easy to understand when one looks at the tree that dominates our house. Not only is it enormous and stunningly beautiful and brings a cooling shade to the dwelling: its branches appear to spread out above us in a protective embrace.

But it does have its moments.

William Ashley Chapman, posing with a branch from the deodara in 2004.

In the winter of 2004, my parents sent me the photo above of one large branch that fell and blocked the entire street after a wild Pacific storm blew through town one night. It took several days to clean it up and my father posed more than once with the cedrus detritus.

My father at the age of 84 was not able, for the first time in his life, to do the tree-clean-up work himself. He and Mom hired someone to take a chainsaw to the mess, which stretched all the way to the house next door, which is behind my father in the photo.

The work must have taken place in spite of the Sabbath, because my father, in both these pictures, is dressed for church.

The tree that spreads its limbs above us, from the mystical land where the spirits dwell, is a temperamental creature. Like the multi-armed Hindu goddess Kali, it represents both beauty and danger.

Both scientists and theologians tell us that energy is never born and never dies--it simply changes forms. Thus, the branch that once cooled this house in summer will now have a new life--warming it in winter--as firewood. Thank you o sacred tree! (Just don't take down my fence, next time you feel like acting up.)


Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Subscribe to Robin Chapman News


Devon C. said...

Glad it did't smash the car or anything else terribly valuable.

Robin Chapman said...

Since completely healthy-looking branches seem to fall down about twice a year, I think I should perhaps get a city arborist to look at the deodara and make sure all is well with it. Seems to me I did that last year: but I'll double check. This happened on a sunny day with just a slight breeze!

Jon said...

Wiki says it has fragrant wood. How would you describe the scent? Pleasant?

It sure is a majestic tree. Have the Chapmans strung twinkle lights among it's branches for Christmas?

Robin Chapman said...

It smells like a cedar closet, which is quite lovely indeed. Re Christmas lights: It is so huge, that in order to string twinkle lights on it we would have to hire one of those trucks with a lift basket! Since my parents were very thrifty, that was never done. But its an idea ...