Ode to the Hemlock at 173

The Hemlock Will Not Countenance Despair

Sometimes I'm astounded by the little coincidences that happen around me.  Last week I started reading Faith in a Seed by Henry David Thoreau, which describes his observations of trees and nature around Concord, Massachusetts in the mid-nineteenth century.  If you're a gardener, or just enjoy nature in general, it's a pretty interesting read!  The coincidence here is that this was the weekend that the hemlock tree in the back yard here at 173 was to be removed.  Taking out trees that one planted and watched grow over time is always a very poignant moment - at least for me.  Here's a bit of the back story...

The spruce the hemlock and the pine will not countenance despair...surely joy is the condition of life. - Thoreau

Diminishing Bleakness

About 12 years ago, the hemlock was planted in the back yard.  The yard needed some evergreens back there because in winter it could get pretty bleak looking out there.  From the very start it was clear that there would come a day when the hemlock would have to come down.  173 has a small yard, and hemlocks can get pretty big - but the thought was that it would be enjoyed until it started to get too big to be removed easily.  And - enjoy it we did.  The hemlock was beautiful in all seasons, with winter being an absolute highlight!

There's something about a hemlock tree with snow resting on its branches!  Even Robert Frost waxed poetic ...

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Dispersion of Seeds

Frost's words absolutely describe what that tree could do to 173's back yard when winter began to wear on!  So, before I move on, I want to go back to Thoreau's Faith in a Seed.   In the book, Thoreau discusses the dispersion of tree seeds, and his observances of how the wind carried the seeds, and how the mechanics of squirrels and other forest creatures assisted the process.  In one section he describes watching squirrels strip pine and hemlock cones, to eat the seeds.  This inspired me to pull apart a hemlock cone and, for the first time since I was a kid living on Lincoln Street, I examined and marveled at the simplicity of nature:

See the dark spot on the end of the flake in the lower right of the picture below?

That part is the seed!  I mean - it's tiny!!  And from that little speck grows a full size hemlock that lives for decades!  Now I understand what Thoreau meant when he wrote, 

Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.

The hemlock at 173 has been the home to two generations of morning doves,

...a family of robins...

...and a fun little ceramic owl!

That Dread Day

But alas, the dreaded day finally arrived.  The day it was decided that now was the last real opportunity to remove the hemlock safely without needing to hire someone.  And, with not just a little sorrow...

...the chore was undertaken...

I know it was just a tree, but I hated every moment of it, even Linus looked a bit sad...

The yard looks so empty!

What Next?

But there's a plan!  An opportunity to plant anew, and once again witness the growth of a new back yard friend!

The arbor vitae will grow tall, but not have the spread the hemlock had, and, as an added bonus, we got the arbor vitae for $25 as Lowes was having their clearance sale!  Say hello to 173's newest addition!

The back yard still looks a bit empty...

...but in a few years I think it'll bring depth and proportion to the yard, much like the arbor vitae had done for the front yard...

Stick around and watch with us!

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