When we moved into our house almost four year ago we had a big beautiful tree in our backyard – about eighty feet tall and another tree in front of the house along the edge of the road. We lost the tree in the backyard in our first summer. It was a Manitoba Maple tree and one quiet sunny morning a large branch decided it was time to move out on its own and it escaped from the rest of the tree. In the process it took out the power line in backyard and pulled the line out of the transformer a couple of houses over, which meant everyone in our block lost power.
The day the branch fell I was home alone as Laura and the girls were visiting her parents. The branch fell just before seven in the morning and the crash woke me up. The branch filled the entire back yard and could have been a tree unto itself. It turned out to be a great way to get to know our neighbours since most people made the trek to our place to check out the commotion and cause of the power outage. We had firetrucks on site until Hydro Ottawa arrived to deal with the power line mixed in with the collapsed branch. The arborist showed up to start cutting the branch and examine the state of the tree. After sticking his arm into the tree where the branch had broken away from the tree and waving it around he declared that the tree would have to come down. It turned out that the tree was rotten and had quite a large hollow space in it. It looked healthy from the outside, but the inside was a different story. Fortunately for us, the tree was entirely on our property so we got to pay for cutting it down. We held out for about a month and had a couple of arborists examine the tree to see if there was any way it could be saved. Everyone agreed it needed to come down. It was structurally compromised and at risk of complete collapse. One arborist compared it to having all the bones in your arm crushed without the skin being broken. From the outside it would look fine, but it would be structurally compromised…
So we had a team of people come and cut it down and they did a great job.
Now we have a lovely stump that keeps trying to grow back.
In the front yard, the tree there is an Ash tree and it is infected with the Emerald Ash Borer which has killed the top half of the tree and is working on the bottom half. The city came along our street last year and cut down the weakest and sickest of the ash trees. Ours was left because it showed no signs of infection and it was in good shape. A year later and things have changed. So at some point the city will come by and remove this one too. It and many others in the city have the red X and are awaiting removal. It looks like pretty well all of the Ash trees in our neighbourhood are dead or dying and slated to be cut.
That will leave us with no sizeable trees for playing in. Some of our friends have swings hanging from their tree, others are building tree houses. Not us, we have a stump you can stand on. We have a couple of other smaller trees, but it will be a decade or more before they are ready for that kind of action. One of them is shaping up to be a decent climbing tree and in another 3-5 years it will be strong enough.
When I was a kid I had a friend who had a tree house in his backyard and we used to spend quite a bit of time in there. My first dungeons & dragons games were played in that tree house. Actually those might have been the only ones… I am always fascinated by tree houses and would like to climb up into everyone that I see. I think it is the attraction of tree climbing combined with a relatively comfortable place to sit when I get up there and enjoy the view.
Over the past year we have been reading the Magic Treehouse series by Marie Pope Osborne. It is a series of books where a brother and sister, Jack and Annie travel through a variety of adventures, typically initiated by Morgan Le Fay or Merlin. They are great books and the girls always enjoy the stories. They also present many teachable moments since they visit historical places and events around the world so we can provide extra information around those events and places and often learn a little something ourselves.
The books are great, but the magic of the treehouse is that it is the treehouse that transports Jack and Annie to the site of their next adventure. For me the magic of a treehouse is the tree itself. Trees offer so many opportunities for adventure and magic. As a kid I climbed them and hid in them. I hid behind them and I collected their leaves. They provide shade to sleep in and protection from the rain. In the winter their branches collect snow and sometimes glisten with ice. Of course they also do magical things like clean our air for us. I like to watch trees blow in the wind and listen to the leaves rustle in the breeze. In the autumn they turn our world into a colourful world of art as the leaves change colour.
And sometimes they are home to treehouses…