Continuing the saga of our giant Catalpas we pick up where we left off in our last post, License to Kill. We received our permit and set the date for tree removal, but nothing could prepare us for the carnage that lay ahead.

Riding my bike home from work, I caught my first glimpse of the empty air space around the front of our house. Normally, I could see the tops of our trees from blocks away, but that day was different. In the dying light of a cold November evening, I saw…nothing, just power lines. I don’t remember power lines above our house. Now, I knew that our Arborist started work that day. Diana even sent me a text confirming he and his crew were there. I just had no idea what to expect when I got home. I finally reached our corner and stopped dead in my tracks. I got off my bike and walked into the yard. The scene was unreal.

The tree trunks ranged between four and five feet in diameter and both laid across our front yard in perfectly cut sections. It was like walking among the surgically sliced carcasses of two huge whales. I just stood there, for what felt like several minutes, taking it all in. What had we done? What the hell had we done? And, what the hell are we going to do with all this wood?!

At this point it was already close to 7pm, which in mid-November in Portland is generally gloomy anyway. So, I put my bike in the garage, went inside, ate my dinner and went to bed. At the risk of loosing dramatic effect, I probably watched some TV in there somewhere as well. I mean, it was Thursday…30 Rock was on.

The Sun always rises

The next morning, we looked out the front window and, yup, it was still there. All of it. All that stupid wood from those stupid trees. Now we were getting angry, damn it. Stupid trees. Stupid house. Stupid wood. Deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out. Hey, I know! Let’s put a free sign on it and see what happens. Great idea.

It was a great idea. We gave wood to everyone and anyone. For the next couple weeks, we had people stopping as they drove by, knocking on our door. Chopping. Sawing. We shared it with any neighbor who wanted it. “Sure, take it.” We exclaimed. “Please, as much as you want. It’s our pleasure.” We cooed. It was a free for all.

One neighbor came by, and over the course of three nights, cut the wood into manageable pieces and took away truck load after truck load. The last evening he came by was the night before Thanksgiving 2010. We were home when he was cutting up the last pieces. It was cold and we gave him some coffee as he toiled. I offered to give him a hand loading up the chunks. It took three truck loads just that night. We got to know each other a bit. He brewed his own beer and offered me some. It was delish. Turned out he is half Canadian, like myself. Eastern Canadian, in fact. I could tell. I can detect that lovely accent a mile away. Anyway, super nice guy.

While we took our trips back and forth, from my house to his, he told me the wood we gave him would be enough to heat his house for at least the next few winters. Maybe it was the emotions of the past weeks with the trees and all, maybe it was the holiday season, or maybe I was just feeling the effects of the super-strong Scottish Ale he brewed, but it took a little self control not to tear up right then and there in the cab of his truck. Something we did, or at least had a small part in, will keep this guy’s family warm for a couple years?!! Incredible!

And to think, just a few days prior we cursed this wood, felt sorry for ourselves and wished it would just go away. Instead, we shared our surplus with our neighbors, interacted with the community, and maybe even impacted it in some small way. I know there are people across the globe with far greater needs than the ones expressed here, but one must recognize good tidings as one experiences them.

The next day was Thanksgiving and the Sun peeked through the clouds just enough for us to sweep up the remaining sawdust. Things were beginning to approximate some semblance of normalcy.

The next challenge facing us: What do you do with 5 foot wide stumps that have busted out the curb and screwed up the sidewalk? Apparently, you “grind” them.