– Cutting down a favorite tree –
Letting go takes no strength,
only a willingness to see the need for it.
(This is a shot taken years ago from my paraglider. You see my knee on the right. On the upper right you can see my landing strip.)
The tree (arrow) is close enough to hit the house when it falls. It’s a magnificent tree; healthy and strong. It has seen many storms and weathered them all, but entropy rules the world; one wild stormy day it might fall.
In all those years I thought, oh well, it’s just a chance that it hits the house, when it actually happens I build a new one.
Then, getting a little bit older, the perspective of having to rebuild a house one day seemed less and less attractive. It took us years to come to a decision, but we had to do something.
We did not want to cut it down completely, but why not shorten it just enough that it cannot reach the house anymore?
Climbing up was a bit unnerving! On the first trip up it was mostly an unprotected free climb. There are lots of branches, but they are far apart, drooping, and you never know how rotten they are. The tree was at least 95 feet tall, and only way up did I finally manage to get a sling around and make a flimsy protection.
On the first trip I went up as far as possible and took another long rope with me to attach it up there and use it later to pull the tree in the right direction. It proved to be a nasty job to get this rope disentangled from the branches, and it took another trip to actually do this. Up there I also put up a good sling anchor for my climbing rope so the following trips were less scary and I could rappel down easily.
Approximately 65 feet over the ground I cleared off some branches and prepared the cut. I had to find a position in which I could safely hold the heavy chainsaw and carefully guide it into the well planned cuts. Especially the final cut had to be precise and careful. I was in a very uncomfortable posture and the sawdust sprayed right into my face. Bill, our neighbor, on the ground gave the rope some cautious pulls and I checked how much the sawed gap would open up.
The plan was to stop sawing before the tree actually fell and get down and pull it over. When I thought it was enough and pulled out the machine and observed the tree for a moment it suddenly started moving. I grabbed a branch, held the saw away from me and waited.
Such moments are amazing! They seem to last forever. It’s probably not more than 3 seconds until it is all over, but time stands still. You are just observing, there is nothing left to do.
The top ever so slowly leaned over – exactly in the right direction – and all came crashing down with deafening noise. I felt the primordial shiver going through the tree and nothing else happened…
Unfortunately no one caught the critical moment on camera!
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Klaus May 21. 2010