It’s Monday Mourning


My heart hurts.

I’m not even sure where to begin with this story
that involves an eccentric old juniper tree and a neighbor.

Short story: neighbor didn’t like eccentric juniper tree
that grew behind my fence in a Dr. Seuss-like fashion,
and over the years advocated for cutting it down because
the not-conventionally-attractive tree interfered with her view.

I defended the tree on the grounds it partially blocked my
view of the enormous new house down the hill but also
stated that I liked the tree because it had character.

Neighbor continued to advocate for removal and last year
I begrudgingly said she could cut off the very top five feet or
so of the droopy, swamp creature-esque tree.  Neighbor 
did nothing until one night this past week when we had another 
conversation about the tree. I repeated that I liked the tree because it had
character and because it blocked the house below, but that she could top it off.

I’m sure you’ve guessed what happened.
On Saturday afternoon, while I was home and completely unaware,
my neighbor came into my yard, went behind the fence and butchered the tree
so that it now just reaches above the fence.  

As soon as I walk onto my patio and face downhill, I see the scarred remains jutting over
the fence. Behind it I see the enormous house down below.  Then I close my eyes
and see the off-center, funky old juniper that used to provide habitat for birds and squirrels.

I’m crying as I write this.

I feel as if I let down that tree, that I should not have made any assumptions
about how it would be treated by my neighbor.
I wish I could rewind the tape and handle the whole situation differently.

Yesterday while I was writing a letter to my neighbor about the hurt and anger I felt,
Zippy discovered a card from her in our front door.

Neighbor’s card said a tree was being planted in a National Forest in my honor
and also that she’d plant another tree behind the fence if I wished.
She apologized and said she’d never do that again.

My anger is mostly gone but I cannot shake the sadness.
I’m not sure how to move forward.
It feels disrespectful to leave the tree as is but I don’t know if I can cut it down.
Yesterday morning when I stood next to it, crying, a bird flew from the lower branches.

This whole situation has affected my health and I can’t see how it’s ever going to get easier.
Whenever I face that direction I’ll either see where the tree used to be or its mangled remains.
Neither feels like a good choice.


21 thoughts on “It’s Monday Mourning

    • Planting another tree is definitely an option. I think I need to live with this a while longer and see what happens to these emotions before making a decision. Thank you for the hugs, Robin.


  1. Reading that note helped quite a bit. As I said, the anger’s gone but the hurt’s still here. I appreciate you taking the time to commiserate, Pat, and share your funny backyard stories. I can practically hear the catbirds screaming. I trust I’ll figure out what to do. Thanks for the hugs.


  2. Have you talked to a landscaper or horticulturist about salvaging your old friend? Sometimes they’re cut waaaaaay back, only to come back, shaped a bit differently, but there.

    When my neighbors bought the house next door, one of the first things they did was remove the top and all the branches, big and little, all the way to the trunk of a big tree in their yard. A tree I’d enjoyed, btw. I was appalled. It was their property. But I said something.

    The following year, small sprouts appeared where branches had been cut. Over the summer, I watched them grow, develop.

    Three years later, the tree is there, full and beautiful, but shaped differently. Better, actually. Don’t underestimate the heart of a tree. They are grand for a reason.

    Perhaps cut back and shaped up a bit, your old friend might make a whole new comeback. You never know if you don’t look into it. But the tree shouldn’t be left as is; that’s for sure. Find a way to help the great creature that remains. You’ll feel better.


    • This is an excellent idea! Expert input can help me make the right decision. Thank you SO much for thinking clearly when I cannot.

      “Don’t underestimate the heart of a tree. They are grand for a reason.” This brought tears to my eyes. Beautiful words and sentiment.


  3. Sorry to hear this, Tracy. I do think like the above poster that it could still grow back its branches and maybe look really cool when it does. I’m surprised your neighbor sent you a note. But it was nice that she did. (((hugs)))


    • We’re not only neighbors, we’re friends. This strained the relationship but I’m grateful she understood this hit me really hard and wants to make things better. Thank you for sharing in this with me, Karen.


  4. Hugs, Tracy.

    Accept the offer of another tree. Here in my city in Canada, if you want to cut down a tree on your property, you have to get an arborist to analyze its health. Only if it’s deemed to be in danger of falling on someone’s property because it is dying can you get a permit to cut down the tree. And then you have to plant a replacement tree, perhaps in a different spot.


    • That seems like such a sane policy. You Canadians have your heads screwed on right in so many instances. (I mean that as the most sincere compliment.) I’m going to check with an expert to see the prognosis and make my decision from there.

      Thank you for your concern and caring, Barb.


  5. I’m grieving with you, Tracy.

    Remember how I stopped the backyard neighbor from completely dessimating the trees along the fenceline we shared? How I mentioned in a recent blog that those trees had somehow managed to lick their wounds with sap, and then branch out again the following spring? It’s possible that such a miracle could happen to your beloved (Charlie Brown) tree. And maybe — as Shoebera suggested — an arborist could assist in that recovery. Worth a try, I think, and I’ll bet the befuddled birds would agree.

    Sit with it awhile. Your heart knows what to do. When you get quiet, it will speak to you.

    ((Many hugs, my friend.)))


    • Oh, I’d forgotten this about your tree. Yes! The resilience of beautiful, grand trees. Thank you much for reminding me of the possibilities and for having faith in my ability to make a good decision. I’m so glad I shared here today and received so many wise and kind words. On that, at least, I was thinking clearly.


  6. Even if this tree doesn’t make it, that still doesn’t mean it needs to go. Unless it’s in danger of dropping limbs on something critical and has to be removed for safety reasons, it could serve as nesting, cover, and woodpecker heaven for years to come. And as others have said, many plants are surprisingly resilient, given time.

    Hugs. Whenever I see a healthy tree cut down, I react almost as if I’d just watched someone get shot.


    • I’m so glad I posted this here because so many in this community understand my hurt: “Whenever I see a healthy tree cut down, I react almost as if I’d just watched someone get shot.” It hits us on such a gut level.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this, Jenn. I’m still mulling over the situation but you’ve all given me much to consider and I appreciate that very much.


  7. I’m so sorry Tracy! many hugs to you! I know you will find a perfect solution for this. Maybe you can call an arborist to help the tree but also accept the new tree next to it.


  8. Ohhhhh… I am so sorry. I hope the tree is indeed able to come back from its injuries. When my littlest sister was born my parents had to expand the house and a beautiful paper birch stood in the way. There was nothing we could do but tear it down, but we all cried over it, and thinking of it leaves a wounded feeling in my heart to this day. More reasons I wasn’t that keen on having a little sister!!


    • Oh, that’s a sad image, Jackie. Paper birch trees are so lovely. It’s horrible seeing a tree go down and I’m sorry the birch’s demise is connected to your sister’s birth.


  9. My neighbors cut down trees on our property line that my children played in and that I loved. They said they were cutting one that was dead and then cut all of them. I was hurt by that, too.

    I planted things on our side of the fence that will grow up in the next few years and fill that space. It was a powerless feeling to come home and find all that empty space and lose something that mattered to me–and held some family history. It helped to plant things myself because it gave that power back.


    • Oh, dear. That would be very tough to come back home and find all those trees down. Why would they do that?!

      I appreciate your point about planting things myself to take back some of that power. I’m still in a confused state but may very well follow your lead. Thank you for sharing, Cindy.


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