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The sugar maple tree across the street from my home has disappeared. In its place is a stump, sans limbs and leaves, just a block of wood standing stupidly on the ground, like a teen-ager loitering around a street corner without any good reason.
City streets are dangerous places for trees. I know, because the man whose job it was to tear this 60-year-old tree down told me so. I know, because I have many times seen trees with large orange Xs on them, marked for death.
Death came to the sugar maple tree across the street last week. It took about four hours and two men to kill it. Using a crane, they chopped up the thick trunk in blocks, and after they were gone, there were only blocks of wood left on the sidewalk. A few hours later, even the wood was gone as residents hauled it away, clearing the sidewalk the way wild animals strip a carcass clean. Even in death, trees serve a purpose.
The man whose job it was to direct the chopping of the tree looked unhappy. So often, he said, people ask him to tear down beautiful, ancient oak trees. In his own back yard, he has only a silver maple tree, the man said. So it is hard for him to believe that people could tear down a perfectly good tree as effortlessly as a sneeze.
The tree across the street from me was sick, the man said. Disease had made its way onto its trunk. It was also tilting dangerously in one direction, like an old woman with a stoop. These are all rational, perfectly sensible reasons for tearing a tree down. But that didn't make the sadness of destruction any more bearable.