There was a big old half dead pine tree in our yard when we bought this house. It was about thirty feet tall and right across the driveway from the livingroom. It still had some green tips on its sad branches and it did provide a little shade to the house in the summer, so I decided to try to revive it. I dug a well around the base of the tree and filled it with water every day for more than a year. It did grow a few more green tips, but we took a three-week vacation and when we got back all the progress was gone. It was just not worth the cost of all that water to keep trying.
It stood there dead for a few more years. The woodpeckers loved it and I enjoyed watching them from the west window. Whole families of them were constantly chattering away, poking holes in it looking for bugs. I hung some bird houses that I had in it, but no one wants to take up residence in a dead tree with no cover. It started to look like any day it might fall on the house and cause us more problems. When we got a new travel trailer for our road trips, we found that the driveway was too narrow at that point to pull it all the way around. We’d need to widen the driveway and that old tree was in the way. It needed to go.
My husband started by cutting it down. He felled it pretty easily for an office man and proceeded to cut the old limbs off and stack them. The smaller branches were super brittle and easy to smash up and put in the trash. The thicker branches he cut into fireplace pieces along with some of the trunk. The man that is coming to grade the driveway offered to take a big piece of the trunk for a project he has in mind. He’s a woodcarver too. He put it in his truck before he left.
And now we’re left with the stump. Naïve as we were, we had asked if he could knock it over with the tractor and he emphatically said he couldn’t. He was sure it wouldn’t budge. We’d have to get it out some other way before he could finish the job.
My husband is an industrious man! He got out all the “shovels and rakes and implements of destruction” early Saturday morning and started to dig. He cut roots and shoveled all morning, took a break while our teenage sun took a crack at it, and went back to work on it on Sunday morning. He hooked up our VW bus to it and tried pushing and pulling to loosen it up. No dice. That stump is seriously stuck. It’s going to take a ton of work to get that thing out!
“How can a big dead tree, with all its multitude of dead and breaking limbs, have such a strong and hearty root?!” I told my friend as we stood looking at it this morning.
We all have big dead trees like that in our lives. A failed relationship, a dependence on a substance, bad habits and bad people are something everyone has at least a little of. When we lay them out on paper or in conversation with a close friend, we can see it’s not serving us, it’s actually hurting us, holding us back. We should cut them down and get rid of them.
We start by knocking it down. We ditch that relationship and move out, get another job, or leave town. We clean up the house and sell all our extra stuff in an effort to live more frugally. We go through drug rehab or get some professional help for our mental struggles. It feels great because we’re moving towards getting better, but then we hit a wall.
Suddenly, the project or recovery seems so damn complicated. There’s so much work to do! So, we stop. We got rid of it, that should be enough. And there we are with a dead stump right where the new driveway should be. It’s still a royal pain in the ass to pull the trailer around. We need to finish the job to be well. We have more work to do.
The power tools come out, the pick, the shovels, the sweat, and the aching back. We may have to resort to dynamite as a last resort. But it will be worth it.
Once the long labor is over, life will go more smoothly. The limbs of the big dead tree in your life may be easy to break off. The trunk of it may need a power tool to get down. But the root will still be there and it’s going to be a long painful process to get it out. It will be worth it though. Get to work!