There is one shade tree in our yard.
It is a tree that has seen many seasons. More than 150 years’ worth. Our guess is that a little linden sapling was thoughtfully planted on the western side of the house as construction was finished in 1850.
The little linden lived a happy, carefree life, free of any responsibility to it’s owners until the time it was due to be taille-ed. I try not to confuse my blog with too many French words, but this is an important one. Tailler (pronounced “tie-ay”) is the verb to describe pruning. But the type of pruning the French do to trees is like nothing that exists in the States. The trees are pruned to keep them at a certain height--forever. The farther a tree is from the side of the road and the closer it gets to the house, the shorter the taille-ed tree. So far I have only been able to find out that trees are treated this way because (a) “Isn’t that what one does everywhere to make a tree ‘fit’ into the yard?” (b) the rapid annual growth of the branches used to provide peasants with easy to carry and no need to split firewood.
I have no idea how one decides that a tree is tall enough to start cutting it back. I have no idea how much our tree continued to grow after this radical practice was started.
What I do know is that we have a magnificent dancing tree that provides a not so serious sentinel guard to our home.
We have a deep luxurious pool of shade on the hottest days of summer under the canopy of densely layered leaves.
We have an inviting spot to sit alone, with each other, or to shout out to the passing neighbor to stop on in.
We have a soft breeze at the end of the evening as the last rays of sun kiss us under the embracing arms.
We have a responsibility to continue this tortuous task.
The old arms that reach out so far would probably not bear up for long under the weight of new branches. New branching is cut back to the gnarly stubs ever two years. It takes my breath away to see Tom up on a ladder and tip-toeing along the mossy branches with those vicious loppers.There will not be a twig left when he has finished. There will be marvelous bundles of the delicate branches that will dry and be used for kindling. The tree will stand there reproachfully all winter. It’s indignant posture seems to say “How could you do this to me?” How can it go on after such cruel surgery.? But it will. After holding my breath for far too long into spring there will be signs of branch sprouts, twiggy, pathetic at first, then longer and longer, green buds appearing from some un-seen hidden strength. With each lengthening day there is less light sneaking through the thickening leaves. By the end of spring here again stands a brave, strong, proud old soul. Another round of seasons has arrived for it to show off it’s strength and it’s kindness.
|Bourdeilles willow tree that shows the severity of the pruning. I could never bear to photograph our old tree at this stage.|