We pronounced a benediction yesterday. The death was of the farm variety, not the human. We are no stranger to mortal transitions out here. Chickens die of their own expiration or by the appetites of predators. Squash vines succumb to bugs. Baby mice are snatched from the straw by hungry chickens in spring. Crops green, then fruit, and then rot. Deer carcasses along the roadside become routine.
Tennyson was right that “nature is red in tooth and claw.” Sitting on the front row of death, be it incremental or violent, is something to which we have adjusted.
But somehow this felt different. Yesterday we felled an oak tree. The “we”, of course, I mean in the formal, literary sense. A more experienced friend actually wielded the chain saw. But we were complicit. We had pronounced the condemning verdict that set this execution in motion. We dragged away the pared branches and ultimately the felled trunk. We stood and absorbed the now-gaping void.
That the removal was necessary we had concluded some time ago. The solar array we had installed a few years ago was a priority and the young tree had the misfortune of flourishing into obstruction. Its widening shade was curtailing generation.
But it was a beautiful tree, rising sentinel-proud between the garden and chicken yard, in full and glorious view from the sun room; perfectly shaped, with a long and sturdy future ahead of it. Except it had the misfortune of being rooted in what turned out to be the wrong place.
And so as the pull cord motored the saw to life and the screaming chain bit into the wood, we gave thanks for beauty of the tree, the sap it had run, the leaves it had worn and seasonally dropped, and the shade that had been both blessing and guilt.
Benediction — good and blessing words, indeed.
And then we turned to the suddenly sun-washed solar panels and admonished them that it was now up to them to make this death redemptive.
Their new life, after all, had come at a sobering price.