The maple tree is dying. But it takes a tree a long time to die, so it will be around for a while.
It’s one of three trees that were planted at the same time on the north side of the farmhouse. If I spread my arms out, I can reach almost halfway around the tree. But I’ve learned that the size of a tree isn’t an indication of its age. These maples may be a hundred years old or they may be a lot younger.
Many of the branches on the tree are bare. Some stick out of the top a few feet above the leaves. It’s a favorite place for birds to roost. One year a bald eagle spent a few days there. This year it’s the raven’s favorite place.
I hear the ravens talking to each other mostly in the morning. They make a wide range of sounds. Along with the expected caws, there are barks and a chattering that sounds, to me, more like a monkey than a bird.
The ground around the maple is always littered with bark that sheds from the dead branches. As if the tree is leaving behind what it no longer needs. Making itself as light as possible.
But even though the tree is dying, it’s still so much alive.
Not only in the parts of it that blossom in the spring and the leaves that turn yellow in the fall. It’s also a home for other living beings.
The squirrel that Bud loves to chase lives in this tree. There’s a perfect oval hole in one of the dead branches that a Piliated Woodpecker made while searching for insects to eat. And although I’ve never seen the nest, more than once I have seen a Robin pulling a worm from the ground, then flying into the leafy part of the tree.
This morning I saw a gray tree frog snuggled in the crevasse of the trunk. I don’t know if the frog is female or male. If it’s a male it may still be trying to attract a mate, the last of the season, by singing his tree frog song.
Male or female, the frog will sleep all day (I just checked It’s now 3 pm and the frog hasn’t moved) and tonight go looking for food, most likely insects that also live in the tree.
We were going to have the maple pruned but learned that it wouldn’t help the tree live longer. So we decided to let nature do the pruning. On windy days small branches are scattered around the yard and every once in a while a big branch comes down. I cut up the branches for firewood or let the donkeys nibble on them in the winter.
The old maple supports and encourages all kinds of life just by being able to live its own.