Fearless and hanging from trees with the greatest of ease, the agile man dangled high from a branch of our 70-foot heritage ash tree, rigged in some form of human pulley system.
Feeling angst and admiration, I cupped my hands like a megaphone. "As a nurse I saw many patients in the trauma unit who fell out of trees attempting to trim them.”
“My wife says I dance in the trees.” He grinned down at me as he stabilized the unpowered chainsaw against the thigh of his saggy blue jeans. This was his second visit to finish trimming the massive sentry poised in our front yard.
“Don’t worry." The tree dancer wiped his free hand across his blue polo shirt. “I started trimming redwoods in Northern California when I was eighteen and now I’m thirty-four.”
“I guess it’s OK because you have a harness and ropes.” I tried to convince myself.
“I won’t fall…I’ve only fallen once. My buddy had called me one evening to come trim his tree. He was in the middle of it and needed help.” My wife had pleaded, “Don’t go! We’re just sitting down to eat dinner.”
Now, he shook his head and continued the story from the heart of our ash.
“So I went over… and ended up falling twenty-five feet.” He held up a loose section of rope...“The rope snapped. I hit the roof, my neck bent and then I fell to the ground, mangling my hand. I had to go to the ER and then trauma unit for four days.” He sighed deeply. “It was my fault… I know never to use another man’s equipment.”
“I don’t really know anything about tree cutting,” I said. “What do you mean?”
“I always buy good rope,” he pushed the rope he clenched toward me. 'This rope can hold 5000 lbs per square inch.' He pulled the bright fuschia colored cord taut between his greasy hands and re-braced himself against the tree. 'My friend’s equipment was some cheap rope he got at Home Depot that holds 250lbs per square inch.”
“Really? I would never have known the difference.”
“I buy rope every six months, it’s very important.” He dangled his leg over a small branch ready to pull out and cut. Other rope was around a larger branch and some went through his harness.
“Is that limb large enough to hold your weight?” The thin branch gave me the jeevies…it was hard to hold back my apprehension.
“Even though it looks like I’m sitting on this smaller limb, it’s actually only taking about twenty pounds of my weight!” He pushed his feet against the trunk. “Actually, the heavier portions are spread by the ropes to the other larger branches.”
I followed the crisscrossing lines, not really sure how it all worked, but amazed at how he rigged it all up.
Minutes later, after the whirring sound stopped, he lowered a huge limb slowly to the ground by rope beside a chainsaw, now swinging slightly on a rope from another branch adjacent to his dangling legs. It looked like a juggling act.
“You like your work don’t you?” I yelled toward him.
“Oh, I love it!” And, I like working for my boss because he sets the price so I can just do the work. When I had my own business I lost money because I just couldn’t charge these little old people who hardly had anything… I ended up doing it free.”
"Then, when I worked for Smud it was terrible. People hated me. They would get so upset that I was coming to cut their trees because they were near the power lines."
“You’re kidding?” I felt truly surprised.
“No, I’m serious.” I had ladies crying and men would get angry. People even threatened some SMUD workers with guns.
“Why?” I asked incredulous.
“Because people are very emotional about their trees.”
An hour later, grounded and off the tree, he sawed wood and stuffed it in his SUV while I raked around the front yard. Sammy and Benji both chewed on a couple nice bare branches they had found.
He continued to teach me how important it is to cut a tree correctly, "People can kill a tree if they cut it in the wrong spot. For instance, just cutting a branch, even a small one in the wrong way at the wrong time of year, can lead to infection and a sick tree."
"People can kill a tree if they cut it in the wrong spot. For instance, just cutting a branch, even a small one in the wrong way at the wrong time of year, can lead to infection and a sick tree."
Stilled by wonder for a moment, I studied the long lanky branches as the sun shone through my special tree. I felt really, really good, like I did something special for something that deserved it.
“Your tree will be happy now,” he said positively. “It will grow and fill in the gaps and balance itself out. And, it saves you a lot of money by shading your house—it really makes a difference.”
“You know, I bought this house mainly because of this tree and the trees in the backyard.” I felt sentimental recalling the difficult search to buy a home, and the joy when I first sighted leaves dangling in the breeze above the modest suburb roof coupled with a for sale sign on the front lawn.
“I know what you mean," the tree dancer smiled.
And so, we love our trees just like Adam and Eve did in the garden. God created them for our pleasure, to enhance our life. They remind us of our beginnings, the roots of our past. They represent shelter and relief, and the steadfastness and endurance of their Creator...and ours.
And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. Genesis 2:9