Alexandra Duncan

Science Fiction. Fantasy. Feminism.

CHOPPING DOWN THE TREE OF LOVE

I know I haven't posted anything in a while, but we're going to ignore that and skip right to the part of this post where I tell you about how today I tried to chop down a tree to distract myself from the horrible stomach virus/food poisoning* thing that is happening to my stomach.

Our house stands on an unusually heavily-wooded lot, which is awesome, because we get to spot all kinds of bird and squirrel antics and make funny voices for them while they run around doing stereotypical squirrel things like being terrified or carrying nuts in their mouths. What is not so awesome is that every time I look up at the majestic oak trees towering above our house, I become convinced that a freak hurricane will blow through and use them to crush us in our beds. Lavender bushes are much safer. A lavender bush never killed anyone.

I have enough of a sense of self-preservation to know that I can't try to chop down the giant oak trees all over our yard. I'm aware that my fear of being crushed to death by a falling tree isn't entirely rational, and I genuinely love being surrounded by their natural beauty. But that didn't mean I couldn't do something about the two to three-year-old saplings our home's former owners - a sweet, middle-aged lesbian couple who, during the real estate closing, joined the chorus of strangers asking Jeremy and me why we don't have kids yet - inexplicably planted within three feet of each other, the fence, and several other well-established trees in our front yard. Every time I looked at those saplings, they baffled me. Why did the former owners plant them so close together? There was no way they could both thrive in those conditions, and they were only going to end up damaging the house and fence as their root structures spread. I chalked it up to ill-advised tree enthusiasm, which I have been guilty of myself.

So, this afternoon, I needed a distraction from the feeling that I had swallowed a live snake made of lead, and I decided that digging up one of the two saplings would be preferable to dwelling on my intestinal woes. I got the shovel and started trying to unearth the tree's already-impressive root structure. After several minutes of hitting roots as big around as my arm, I decided it might make more sense to chop down the tree. I retrieved the axe - which I think is actually meant for splitting logs, not chopping down baby trees - from the wood pile and discovered several things.

1) Chopping down a tree is hard, even if it's a relatively young tree, because you have to hit the trunk with the axe in the same place over and over again. This is even harder when you're paranoid about chopping off your toes. And when your axe isn't the right kind of axe. Let's just say Anne Boleyn should be glad not to have had me as her executioner.

2) I feel some bizarre form of liberal guilt over chopping down trees, even if it's for the long-term good of all the neighboring trees and the house and fence. I blame this on my second-grade teacher reading The Lorax to our class.

3) Physical labor and gastrointestinal distress are not a good combination.

3) Chopping down a tree may look like an excellent way to reduce stress, but not if your internal monologue goes something like, Dammit, ANOTHER frickin' root! What the hell? This tree isn't going anywhere! The roots are all tangled up together. What the hell is wrong with the people who planted these things? Didn't they think about how the trees would grow and their root systems would intertwine, and maybe even the trees would grow into each other and become one tree as they got older?

And that's when it occurred to me that I live in Grand Hippie Central and the former residents might have been trying to do exactly that - plant the two trees close together so that their roots would intermingle and they would fuse together into one larger tree in a touching statement about love and commitment and family.

And then I felt really, really guilty. Not only about the half chopped-down tree, but about being such a dick about the trees being close together during my internal monologue, when all the while they were a beautiful metaphor flying miles over my head.

But not guilty enough that I didn't take Jeremy up on his offer to finish chopping down the tree. I'm all about some beautiful metaphors, but I'm also about not having structural damage to our house.

*I really don't know which it is. There's been a stomach virus going around at work, but then again, I ate something that involved "chipotle mayo" for Sunday brunch.

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