52 Ways to Shift Your Focus

Shift #10: Identify Your Obstacles – Remove a Tree

Our yard is a work in progress just as much as anything on my writing desk. We mow, move plants around, pull weeds, sit back and admire. We let other people see it. Some of our more dramatic plants, like the blazing orange poppies that were amazing this spring, demand an audience.
It’s also the place we go to reconnect with each other while we get our hands dirty, and the space I go to when I need a moment away from being a writer/mom/responsible person. The great thing about the back yard is that it’s largely screened by trees, so is private. Not so private that I’d go out there unclothed, but there are little spots to sit without my neighbors knowing I’m there.
That back yard space, which gets less public attention, also has a tendency to get overgrown. It has  dark hideaways where bugs, slugs, and rodents hang out. Some plants grow up and produce seeds before we realize they have joined the team.
But, mostly, things co-exist peacefully in the back yard. Except for our tiny spruce.
We planted a spruce seedling about 10 years ago and it grew and grew. By this past weekend, I would guess it was about 10 feet tall – give or take. Our next-door neighbors planted their own larger trees after our seedling took up residence and those trees – also spruces – loomed over our own. All these trees were near our shared property line.
Our tree wasn’t developing as well as it might have. It was misshapen on the side toward our neighbors’ trees. It was beginning to block the morning sun from other things in the garden next to it. We occasionally discussed whether it was what we’d hoped, yet didn’t have the heart to cut it down.

But the more we looked at how all the trees – ours, our neighbors’ – were growing together, the more we realized the little spruce probably had to go. It wasn’t the only character in that part of the landscape anymore.

So we got out the chainsaw and took down the tree on Sunday, surprised that it only took about 15 minutes to eliminate 10 years’ worth of growth.  Suddenly, we could get to the swamp milkweed that was partly blocked by the tree. We could get to the other side of our lilac bush to prune it. We could see the neighbors’ blooming peony between their spruces.

This morning, it already looks like nothing is missing. That spot in the back yard is a seamless new story. The little spruce was in the wrong place, but it is not completely gone. It will be appreciated again once its wood is seasoned enough to use in our fire bowl.

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