I invited my neighbors over the other day because I need their advice and help. The first is a forester. In a part of the country blanketed with trees, Carl is the one to call on if you need to put a road through the bush, or are concerned about the health of a tree, or have a tower of wood and leaf looming over a building or a power line. It is treacherous and dangerous work and I am lucky to have Carl as a resource. Generous and soft-spoken, he is a large, powerful man who has been safely solving the problem of trees for decades.
Glen also works with wood. He is a smaller, younger man, but in his work as a carpenter he is just as skilled as Carl. The oldest son of a large family spread throughout the area, Glen’s heritage is the long line of men and women who first cleared the land and ploughed the fields so they could build houses, fences and barns. I want a small cabin built and that is why I asked both men to drop by.
Carl arrived first and in a few minutes he marked which trees needed to come down for the cabin to be safe. Just before he left, he pointed to a large pine that stood between the cabin-site and the lake. “We should take that pine down as well,” he suggested. “It’d give you a much better view of the lake.”
I often wondered about that pine just because it did block so much of the view. But it was healthy, vigorous with roots that went far into the earth, deep in the past. I was hesitant, torn, liking the idea of a better view but not sure if I want the end of such a worthy tree.
Glen dropped over an hour or so after Carl left and it was surprisingly quick for him to come up with a rough sketch of the cabin and a broad estimate of wood and materials. As he headed back to his truck, I pointed to the large pine and the magnificent view that would be mine if the tree came down. He paused and nodded a strong agreement. And then, hearing my hesitation, he added this caution: “Takes a long time to grow a tree though, doesn’t it?”
Two kind, generous and competent men in the midst of what might be the world’s largest forest looking at a single tree. One saw a problem in need of a solution. The other recognized a relationship and wondered how I was going to live with it. And maybe that is one of the lessons we can learn from a tree: Is the world around us as a problem to be solved or a relationship we are already living?