Our daughter Emily had a handsome little maple tree growing outside her window as a child. The tree was a volunteer, something not uncommon around here as the big maples growing in the cemetery “next door” send out their helicopters each year. This seedling happened to start itself in a spot which had once been a septic tank, and we let the little sapling alone. Our septic system got modernized and moved farther from the house years ago, but the dent in the lawn proved to be a happy home for a tree. The child who considered it her own has grown up and moved on, and the tree really was too close to the house, and after 20 or 25 years it grew to be in the way of some other infrastructure, and was not really stable, so we’ve acknowledged for a couple of seasons already that it would have to go — someday. We were in no real hurry to cut it down.

Last Sunday was a beautiful day, particularly so because the wind wasn’t blowing. We had a couple of jobs to do around the place that required a calm day — namely, tree work.

Everybody’s cutting trees around here, because the island is thick with shallow-rooted, over-mature spruces growing on ledge, some suffering the bark beetle, and when one tips over and creates a hole in the woods the dominos fall in sequence. Anyone with a chain saw is tackling the rat’s nest of spruce forest to clear power lines, or get in free firewood, or make a firebreak, or maintain a trail, or just deal with a mess. We can’t get ahead of it. Over at “West Side Orchards,” where our neighbors are swamping out a spot for a new home, the clear-cut gets bigger every time the wind blows. One of those trees became legend requiring six wedges, and there are widowmakers and pick-up-stix aplenty, and root-balls in the air making for treacherous counterweights, but most of the spruce woods is just what Clayton Young years ago called “weeds,” spindly and useless. These days, every man a logger.



Anyway, last Sunday also happened to be Maine Maple Sunday, when various friends were enjoying the fruits of their labor — or just the labor — in their sugarbushes on the mainland. We did not pick Maine Maple Sunday as the day to cut down Emily’s little maple tree, but it happened that way, and what a tribute it was to the species Acer saccharum! The tree was cut limb by limb to prevent the whole thing doing any damage, and as the first large limb was sawed off, immediately the sap started running from the cut like water. You could hear it dripping fast like a kitchen sink not quite turned off. We tasted it, and before long we were covered with the stuff, as every piece of heavy wood I carried out of the way had liquid absolutely running out of both ends.

The maple sap flowing so freely made me wish we had enough trees around here to tap, and maybe manufacture a bit of syrup, but there are some things you give up living on this island. Having take-out delivered is one thing, and a daily paper is another, and joining things that require regular attendance like community choirs and the over-50’s pick-up hockey league, and any decision in mid-life to take up the hobby of maple syrup production.

There are other hobbies, however, which sometimes require the help of a good tree. In the process of siting a long-wire amateur radio antenna, we scoped out a tall spruce which seemed in a good location to take one end. Actually, my husband maintained optimism about that tree; from a distance I initially wrote it off as probably yet another half-dead spruce about ready to fall down in the next nor’easter. After lopping through a mean mess of briars and non-fruiting raspberries (much akin to barbed wire) to gain access to the tree, I discovered that it was not only healthy and rugged but practically begging to be climbed. With its sturdy branches close together, I got nearly 25 feet off the ground last Sunday, with a branch saw for trimming as needed along the way. I hauled a drill up on a rope to start a hole, screwed in a hook, set my little pulley and line to take the wire antenna’s insulator, and enjoyed a stupendous view of the Camden Hills. There are places up that tree where a person can just sit and relax. Next time I may bring a sandwich.

I had no idea how much I’d enjoy climbing a tree. It’s been quite a while. Between that and the maple sap, I’m looking at the trees around here with a new eye....