Our big side-yard hawthorn (Crataegus Oxycantha), British expat and lovable invasive species, has finally succumbed. She had been visibly failing since October and probably long before. Her capitulation was precipitated by the heavy snow load Mother Nature delivered yesterday on the first day of winter.
Always a pleasant neighbour, Ms. Hawthorn graced our side yard for many years. She made herself useful, as both trees and the British tend to do.
Each May saw her don her trademark white-tinged-with-pink floral dress for ten days or so, before flinging it off all at once as the weather warmed. We always enjoyed the resulting petal-storm, so much gentler than yesterday’s frigid blast.
She was a steadfast summer helpmeet too, her hundreds of thousands of tiny shiny serrated leaves collaborating to shield us from the hot sun, as she dabbled her toes in the cool creek, rejuvinating her green frock. In this shady role Ms. Hawthorn silently chaperoned dear C’s graduation celebration, dear K’s wedding shower, and many teen parties and get-togethers over the years.
Every September she produced bountiful shiny clusters of the reddest of red berries, edible, but not very palatable, admired by passers by and relied upon by our local wild bird population.
Her roots must have been imperceptibly loosening as the fall rains softened the bank she stood on because she began to tip over into the yard, managing a full forty five degrees from her traditional upright stance before we noticed that she was losing her grip and moved the hammock out of the way.
We decided to keep clear and let her come down on her own, for safety, worried that if we began sawing, the release of the strain she was under would snap us straight to kingdom come. I expected her to collapse within days of our discovery, but she doggedly hung on, long past Halloween, right through November and a series of heavy deluges, and indeed almost through December, until yesterday.
Presciently, I had taken a quick photo of her as I slogged by on my way back from the barnyard and the lunchtime feed. She was heavy with wet snow as was our whole valley. I had divested myself of my sopping snowy outerwear, poured myself a bowl of hot soup and settled down at my desk to read email when a text came in from Resident Gardener, “that hawthorn broke”.
“Just now?” I asked.
“The one we thought would come down soon” she continued, our conversation following the usual frustratingly disjointed cadence of my texting sessions.
“Ya heard it crack when I was outside just now” RG then observed.
By now I had made it to the bathroom window where I could indeed see that my dear Ms. Hawthorn was no longer peeking over the shop roof, and the adjoining trees’ branches still wobbling with the shock of it all.
“Wow” I excitedly exclaimed to RG, having by then switched over to a voice call. “I just took a picture of her! Should have stood there and waited I guess.”
I ran downstairs and outside, slid into my boots and made my way carefully down the slushy path past the shop until I could see her in all her recumbent glory. I took another quick shot or two, then retreated back into the house and my warm office.
The end of a lovely tree, another casualty of 2020. RIP Ms. Hawthorne. I take solace from the fact that we can look forward to your many inevitable heirs sprouting in your place. May they grow as tall and as buxom and as indefatigably as you grew, until 2020’s latest weather bomb got the best of you.