This is the autumn-winter tale of a 90-year-old poplar, a landmark which could be seen miles away from None Tree Hill. And it grew, all ten tons of timber, within five metres of our back porch. Nothing wrong with that over the past 18 years, but then it got old and cranky with climate change.
Or maybe it was just that stage of its life when, like older men losing hair, it lost its own, though rather more dramatically. Even in the calm of autumn it flung down javelins of branches so often that we dared not set foot there. Climate change, said some. Its age, said others. Either way the poplar was not so popular. On a day with the slightest wind we worried that it could fall and smash not only our house but those of our neighbours. This old tree planted when the district was a farm, had outgrown the in-filled surround of the neighbourhood. One day a City Council arborist arrived, took one look at its occluded trunks - and signed its death warrant. And for some reason we felt guilty.
In snowstorms of sawdust tons of timber thudded into the backyard; was shredded by the noisiest machine known to man; sawn into firewood enough to last until the next Ice Age. When the tree fellers finally took off, they left behind them a mound - like some huge grave - where the tree once was. At first we tried not to look. But if the old tree seemed to be acting out some rage in its last years, it was generous in parting. Around us lay a mountain of logs. And then, by accident, we discovered the joys of splitting logs in the crisp autumn air. We could almost smell the sap as the logs obliged and fell apart at every stroke. Little things, lasting pleasures for the desk-bound.