Used to be tree

This morning I took some pictures of the stumps that remain after the tree removal I’d mentioned yesterday, when a local side-street was closed while crews cut down every single pine tree in a yard I walk past nearly every morning. It completely changes the look of this particular house and street corner to have bare sky where there used to be pine bough: a drastic change to the local landscape.

Clear cut

I have a picture of what once was: a shot I blogged back in November, when I looked back in retrospect on my first marriage. It’s a picture I particularly like, and one I’m now glad to have taken, given the fact that I’ll never be able to take it again.

How strange it feels to refer to “my first marriage,” but that’s what I’ll have to say now that I’m two months away from embarking on my second. One of the things that’s troubling about divorce, I’m finding, is the way it makes your life two rather than one. Instead of having one husband, one marriage, and one solemn vow of “forever,” you suddenly have two. You have those memories of then, and you have these soon-to-be memories of now. Most of the time, these two worlds keep cleanly separate–then vs. now–but sometimes the memories blur.

J insists, for instance, that we’ve gone together to a particular grocery store, but it’s a store I’ve never been to. J’s memories of shopping with his first wife–a completely mundane activity with no traumatic overtones–have blurred with his similarly sanguine memories of shopping with me. At times, my ability to separate this soon-to-be-husband from my first one is equally shaky. Is a particular inside joke something I shared with J or with C? Is a given memory from a years-ago hockey or basketball game something I did with Husband #1 or Soon-To-Be Husband #2?

Nothing but stump

“You can have this, or you can have that.” There is a car commercial right now featuring hip-hop hamsters dancing to that rap, a musical version of the classic choice of either/or. You can have this, or you can have that, but you can’t have both: you must decide. In the commercial, the hamsters point to the car being advertised–this–and then to some absurd alternative–a toaster, washing machine, or cardboard carton–as the obviously inferior that. Why would you want that when you can have this?

I’ve had that song in my head all day, ever since seeing these stumps this morning. Why would you choose stumps when you can trees? And yet, there must be some valid reason for clear-cutting your own yard: perhaps there is a tree disease or parasite spreading among local pine trees, and these homeowners decided to amputate just as their neighbors had previously?

You can have this, or you can have that. To have a second marriage, you have to lay waste to your first, leaving nothing but the emotional wreckage of a half dozen stumps. When I first announced my decision to divorce almost six years ago, the most difficult question people asked was the simplest: “Why?” Why clear-cut your own heart? Why leave a swath of devastation in your and your partner’s soul, dividing the emotional landscape into the either/or of Before and After?

Now, I have a clearer answer to that long-ago question of Why, but I needed six years of soul-searching and the unimaginable possibilities of new beginnings to come to that conclusion. In six years, who knows what sort of “that” will have sprouted from all of “this.”

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Keep clear!

If only keeping a clear mind were as easy as heeding the warnings on a piece of heavy machinery! Today’s Photo Friday theme is Heavy, so I’m revisiting some photos of cherry-pickers and wood-chippers–heavy machinery–I’d photographed at the Dillant-Hopkins Airport in Swanzey, NH back in May, 2007.


In the aftermath of last weekend’s stormy weather, tree and landscape crews have been out in force throughout Newton, cutting broken limbs and fallen trunks. Dismantling windblown trees is hard work, and the sound of chainsaws and wood-chippers has been a prominent part of this week’s ambient soundtrack: an auditory reminder of the heavy-handed influence of heavy weather.

Even in the absence of heavy machinery, storm clean-up has been ongoing: this morning I saw a librarian outside the Waban Library Center doing her part to clean up tree debris, dragging small branches into a pile by a city waste basket. Dressed like a quintessential librarian, she was wearing a long skirt and sensible shoes, and she was carrying a small stack of children’s books in one arm. Even if you aren’t dressed for heavy lifting, there are always small things that need tidying.

Big wheel

Walking down an accustomed road on our usual dog-walk this morning, Reggie and I had to turn around, the road blocked with those aforementioned wood-chippers and tree-crews. The particular house where they were working, though, didn’t have any storm damage that I could remember, and the tree they were chainsawing into logs looked healthy. This particular house recently changed hands, and I’ve been worried that the new owners would make radical changes to its landscaping: their neighbors had cut down a couple of tall pines last autumn, and this particular house is surrounded by a woodsy fringe of unkempt undergrowth where I regularly see the year’s first snowdrops and crocuses along with wildflowers such as trillium and jack-in-the-pulpit.

The woodsy fringe around this house, in other words, is a small spot of almost-wildness in an otherwise immaculate suburb: a small strip of real estate I’d prefer be left untidy. It’s a curious habit I’ve observed in neighbors nearly everywhere I’ve ever lived, though: you buy a charming house that caught your eye because it was shaded by trees, then you move in and cut them all down. It happened with my old house in Hillsboro, NH, which used to be screened from the street by a half-acre of pines–the last time I drove by, I saw a half-acre of stumps–and it seems to be happening here and there in Newton. It’s enough to make your heart feel heavy.

This is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, Heavy.

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