By the time I fluffed the comforter closer around my shoulders and tried to find a warmer place in my bed, the sun was creeping up from the west and intensified the golden hue of the cottonwood tree outside my bedroom window. As much as I love this tree, I know it’s time to cut it down. I thought about the life of this cottonwood tree, and the canopy of shade it has occasionally sheltered me with, like an old friend who gives words of encouragement when life can be sad. Or the musical sound of the leaves whispering through the wind, because after all, what woman doesn’t enjoy sweet whispers floating across her shoulder, brushing the back of her neck and softly grazing her ear?
The cottonwood tree changes with the seasons, sporting glossy green leaves in the spring and crunchy golden yellow in the fall. The gold leaves entertain when they flicker in the sun, while gracefully dancing across the blue sky, gravity pulling them down to their final resting place. The cottonwood grows fast, looks beautiful, stands tall, and is the perfect barrier from the down sloping winds that barrel across the plains. Its life is short in the world of trees, a mere fifty or so years to dance to it’s grave.
The tree has it’s beautiful moments, so I tend to relegate to oblivion the nuisance it causes the neighborhood in the months of May and June. It forgets its boundaries and sheds its cotton on people and places it shouldn’t, and blows down on anyone who gets too close, suffocating them with thick, sticky white clumps, making eyes puffy and red. After the fall leaves disappear, the tree stands proudly naked in the dormant winter, selfishly rubbing and grinding it’s branches, echoing its sound through the darkness of the night. These grinding branches leave self inflicted wounds that let disease seep through to its trunk. The sound of it’s whining grows louder as it learns I will cut it down and let it go.
This tree forgets my unending capacity to forgive it’s miserable seasons, but now it’s a danger to others, and it will come crashing down when the next high powered winds charge across the meadow. The cottonwood never learns from its past. It chooses to do it all over again, shedding its cotton, breaking its branches, haunting the night air with creeks and groans and refusing to grow its roots deeper into the ground. The soft wood of its branches can’t weather the storms of life, leaving fear and warning signs of it’s breaking point. Will one of these giant branches break off, fly through the air and hit me in the head or will the tree fall over and pin me to the ground where I’m unable to move or call for help? I hope, I pray and I wonder if the tree might change; perhaps it won’t break down this year, maybe its cotton won’t blow into the neighbor’s yard, will it grow stronger, greener, and provide a canopy of protection for those who depend on it for shade? Then I hear the warning sound of its past turn to the familiar moaning of the branches squeaking and scraping together and I know what I have to do.
Yes, it’s time to cut the tree down and enjoy the extraordinary light. I’ll remember the seasonal shade, the whispering leaves and the rainbow of colors it shared with me as it swayed outside my bedroom window.
Rest in peace, my beautiful cottonwood tree.