I sit in front of a west-facing window when I work from home, under the branches of a great old Ash tree. It reaches over and past the window, protectively shading the house and reaching up high into the sky. I imagine it’s cooler up there in the topmost branches, and that the tree knows I’m down here.
These trees are becoming rare in the states because of an invasive beetle called the emerald ash borer. Cute little guys, they are a shiny turquoise and plum color with a kind of kaleidoscope finish like they were dipped in a jar of glaze. And they like to eat ash leaves. Unfortunately for the Ash, the larvae of the borers eat the inside bark of the tree, making it hard for the trees to transport water up the trunk, which is how trees absorb water and nutrients. The larvae spell disaster for the trees, and over time the Ash trees die of thirst.
We are fighting for ours; we hired a company to treat the trees in an effort to fight off the beetles. It’s expensive but when I look at the tree that can’t be saved – the oldest, largest, most graceful of them, which was too far gone to be treated by the tree specialists when we bought the house – my resolve hardens.
These trees aren’t particularly huggable. Some trees are, practically inviting you to wrap your arms around them and lay your face against them, but the Ash trees have a stand-offish air, seem aloof and distant and seem to want their space. Still, they are my favorites, probably because they are struggling.
The biggest of them, with a trunk that is more than seven feet in circumference, has more than a third of its majestic branches defoliated. It is hard to watch it decline; it exudes a kind of pride, even now, that is undeniable. People come to the house and notice it – beginning to remark on its beauty, taking it in, looking more carefully – and then they stop speaking. It’s like that. A sudden realization you’ve said something offensive, or sad, without meaning to.
The trees around us have a kind of slow, deliberate presence and awareness, existing in a symbiotic relationship to us and around us, reaching up to meet the sky, joining the earth with the heavens.
I would like to work from home more often.