To Every Thing There Is A Season

THE BIG TULIP TREE NO LONGER STANDS over Twycross House, American Bungalow’s home. It had been the jewel in the crown of trees that shelters and enhances the property—a natural barometer of changing seasons and a living totem to our intimacy with nature. It was an immense, dignified landmark, clearly identifying Twycross House from viewpoints on mountain trails high above the city. With its many natural faces—delicate blossoms in spring, turning leaves in fall, bare winter branches and year-round flocks of squawking wild parrots in its topmost perches—it mocked shallow materialism. And now it is gone.

False hope and denial let it stand for two years after it ceased to show signs of life. The folly of these emotions was fearfully brought home by a strong autumn windstorm, so just before Christmas the tulip tree was taken down. There was no cry of “Timber!” and it didn’t fall, but instead was respectfully topped, one piece at a time, with each section gently rappelled to earth. In minutes, what had once been an animate, majestic life form, a witness to the 20th century, became nothing more than a neat stack, a lifeless commodity to be measured in cords. Due respect notwithstanding, felling the tulip tree was a sickening experience. The screams of chainsaws are always unbearable.

Hardwood from poplars like the tulip tree is not showy, so we bucked the rounds in lengths that will split into logs that fit into the wood stove at the cabin. Still wet, the big discs were heavy, massive enough to crush and fracture an index finger that didn’t get out of the way quickly enough while stacking. We left the stump as a monument to the glory that once stood there.

Humans have always been intimate with trees. A tree of life is central to ancient beliefs of many cultures. We respect that trees predate us, outlive us and are persistent survivors. They stand knee-deep in steamy swamps and cling for life to granite walls. Where there is any water at all, there will soon be a sapling, and where conditions are even marginal, there will soon be a forest—although maybe not soon enough, as deforestation by human hands rampages across the globe.

Most bungalow people, however, cherish trees and all that they provide. We celebrate them in the most intimate corners of our homes, take joy in the beauty and history revealed by intricate, fluid patterns of life and bask in the warm tones wood reflects. We know that wood is never really dead but continues to breathe, to shrink and expand in harmonious response to its surroundings. Trees, living and harvested, help bungalow people feel at home with nature and natural materials in the Arts and Crafts way.

Is it possible to love a tree? I’m sure it is. Too many poems, too many images have been created in adoration of trees for it to be otherwise. I certainly won’t forget that tulip tree. A saddening stump and a mangled fingertip are its constant reminders. And from an iron stove in a shelter high on a mountainside, the tulip tree—more real than memory—still radiates the comforting warmth of its life.

Looking forward to hearing from you,





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