Mar 18, 2017 7:44am

FIR, BIRCH AND US (a post from March18, 2015)

A couple of years after my mother and my sister-in-law passed away, we had to let a fir tree go in our backyard. The tree specialist said it had been dead at least a year. By the time it was felled, it was brown, all thirty or forty feet of it. I hadn’t ever noticed—although the tree was visible from my bedroom, my kitchen, my sunroom and my family room. I told the man I didn’t want the stump ground and so, for the last ten years, a little wood-fashioned gravestone remains of that tall beautiful tree. Still, I hate to see a phantom tower of emptiness where it once stood.

This morning, we let go of the birch out in the front yard. Whenever I sat in my red Gigi chair inside the living room reading the paper, a shadow would cleave the open sheets in some way, depending on the time of day. On a windy day, I heard the tree's chiffon leaves rustle (through our double pane glass window). 

When I returned home from India last September, three months after we cremated Daddykins, I didn’t see the tree at all. The birch must have been dying over the last year but I noticed the fact of it only in the last few weeks when I took to walking around the neighborhood. 

Walking daily opened my eyes a little more with every day. I learned to notice the progression of things: The way Japanese maples first swung open at the ends of branches, how birds of paradise preened, as if they were looking, brow raised, over the fence, into a neighbor’s yard and also that tulips were either perfect and pretty or perfectly ugly, with no uncertain stage inbetween. 

Looking was not ever enough, I realized this afternoon, staring at the new, filled-in hollow where once the birch had stood. I had missed so much. And now I missed it so much.