Saturday, March 24, 2007

Champion Poplar, Pruned

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In Leland today it was foggy in the treetops, but I had borrowed Liz's camera to take a picture of the Champion Poplar after its pruning. I worked for many years in fruit orchards and I've pruned many trees. When it was pruning season I developed a sort of "pruning vision" where I found myself mentally pruning every tree that I laid eyes on, no matter the size. I would mentally cut out the dead wood first, them thin out "witches brooms" and crossed branches. Finally my mind's eye would thin the good wood, saving time by planning "fewer, bigger cuts", letting light in to shaded areas, or as we put it in the vernacular, "Leaving holes big enough to throw a cat through". We made good clean cuts, close to the branch, with no stubs to let disease in: "Don't leave anything you could hang your hat on."

When I closed my eyes at night I saw branches, kind of like Frost's poem "After Apple Picking":

But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.

I've picked apples, and had that dream, too.

The pruning aesthetic has stayed with me. Ten years ago when the power company wanted to prune the row of young poplars in my yard, I told them to just cut them to the ground. I knew I couldn't stand to look at a row of arbitrarily truncated trees in my yard.

I had to go to Leland on Thursday to get some savings bonds ready for the awards ceremony at 4-H Expo. When I pulled up at the corner by the Bluebird, I was transfixed by the sight of the tree trimming company, with two incredibly tall cranes and chainsaws, doing the pruning of my dreams. They were making the cuts I can only make in my imagination. It was like watching a perfect triple play, only slower.

I couldn't stay to watch. I had to go to work. But I took this picture, which looks to me like a picture of art. I guess most folks won't see much of a difference between this picture and the one before, but that's the sort of pruning I admire.

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