By Paula Ganzi Licata
John is up in the tree, a chain saw hanging from his climbing belt. A worker swings a rope in his direction and John catches it like Tarzan grabbing a vine.
Meanwhile, his colleagues on the ground are sawing fallen branches and feeding them into the chipper. I’m watching from an upstairs window, simultaneously fascinated by the organized chaos and frightened by the potential danger, feeling the need to stand guard as a tree goes in Bellmore.
In anticipation of storm season, I’m removing a Norway maple – with a trunk so wide I can’t wrap my arms around it – to circumvent it from falling on my house.
Protective planks are placed over my brick walkway, a blue plastic tarp laid over my front lawn.
It’s a cacophony of sounds: the high pitch chain saw buzz; the thud of limbs hitting the ground; the low drone of the chipper’s motor; the constant clanking of outstretched branches hitting against the chipper’s metal exterior before being sucked into the deadly gaping mouth.
There’s a break in the action and the soft sweeping sound of raking provides a short respite.
I’m beginning to see more street, less tree. I’ll miss the green leafy curtain between my house and the rest of the world – but a big old dying tree is a dangerous thing.
The big branches are roped before they’re cut to control their direction. Once cut, they dangle upside down, leaves on the bottom, the fresh-cut edge on top, like an enormous piece of broccoli suspended in midair. There’s something acrobatic about the big leafy branches floating to the ground. They sway through the air on a calculated course, avoiding houses, people, cars and the wires running from the utility poles.
Rays of sun slice through the air revealing billions of dancing sawdust particles.
I’m spotted. John waves. Then he looks north, toward my backyard where an old oak is dying. But he doesn’t look like he’s eyeing his next job, just enjoying the bird’s-eye-view.
His pants are clipped tight to his ankles and knees. His boots have spikes at the toes, enabling him to dig into the tree.
My upstairs bathroom – my lookout – is noticeably brighter. The white porcelain and tiles are soaking in and shining back the sunlight they’ve been denied by the maple’s shade.
“Ready?” John hollers.
“Wait,” his partner yells.
They’re men of few words and big deeds. A thick chunk of trunk floats down and lands feather-like on the ground.
The forklift finishes loading wood into the dump truck. Gear is packed, boards and tarp removed and the noisy trucks drive away. It’s suddenly quiet. And sunny. A large circle of mulch marks the spot where the 75-year-old tree once stood.
Years ago a Sassafras tree fell during a storm, just missing my garage. (The air smelled like root beer!) There’s always drama when a tree ceases to be a tree and becomes wood. But hiring a tree service is safer than letting Mother Nature have her way.