Got a stump right smack dab in the middle of my back yard. As I understand convention, a civilized person is not supposed to have a stump in her yard. A civilized person who has a stump in her yard calls sinewy, grizzled guys who come out with a contraption called a stump grinder that erases the stump from its spot on the earth. Erases all signs that a tree ever lived on that spot: purified the air, shaded rabbits, flowered in lascivious glory, sheltered baby cardinals, shattered the air with brilliant color in the fall, made a home for hoot owls as it died.
Don’t understand why a person would want to erase a stump.
My stump is a double stump. This probably makes me only half as civilized as people who have a single stump. And infinitely less civilized than people who have no stump at all.
The left-hand part of my stump is eight inches across and two feet high. The right-hand part is six inches across and a foot high. The right and left stump faces are cut at 45 degree angles facing away from each other. Their upturned faces make them look like they are admiring the leaves in the trees who are still living. Or enjoying the sun. Or like two good friends standing back-to-back fighting for their lives. Against sinewy grizzled guys out to erase them. “I’m on your six,” the short stump would shout to the tall one. “Got yer back,” the tall one would yell in return.
My stump has borne silent witness to untold joy and despair: The delight of an elderly ground squirrel at feeling the warm sun on his fur when he emerges from his long winter’s nap. The terror of a grey squirrel my neighbors trap and carry away as she clings to the cage bars and screams for her babies. The despair of a naked baby bird who lies crying in the wet grass and waits for his death. The thrill of a young thumbkin bat, amazed at her own fearsome feats, as she cavorts through the air catching acrobatic bugs. The sensuous joy of my sweet gum tree as the rain caresses her long lean limbs while she stretches them seductively in the wind. To all this joy and despair, and untold more, has my stump borne silent witness.
I know my double-stump is not a living tree any more. Don’t know who it was or why it died. Bought the stump along with the house. Can’t miss the tree I never knew, but I would miss the stump if sinewy, grizzled guys came with a stump grinder in the middle of the night and grinded it. Would scream and throw books at them out of my attic window until they threw up their hands and skulked off muttering about the crazy woman in the attic.
I am not the only person to whom this stump is important. Grey squirrels in the trees that line my back yard love this stump. They scurry down my sweet gum tree and race across the yard to hop up on it. They raise up on their haunches and gaze back at the sweet gum to admire it from a different perspective. Then they peer at the oaks and the elm tree to see whether they have changed from the day before. Occasionally they look directly at me through the attic window and wonder what the hell I’m doing inside on such a magnificent day.
Once in a glorious while, a couple of young squirrels will climb up on the stump to see the world from a new perspective together. Thrilling to run out of the safe cover of the trees and climb up on a stump, exposed, for the first time. Like the first day of school. Like the first crush. Like the first kiss.
A few minutes ago, in the rain that is washing my stump, a pale five-pointed sweet gum leaf fell on its left-hand face. The stump is dark-coffee-brown, so the leaf looks like a star in the night sky. Seems to be stuck there. Tomorrow, maybe a squirrel will hop up on the stump and push the leaf off. But for now, I like to think the leaf is enjoying seeing the world from a new perspective.
Maybe we each live in a Life-Tree. Maybe we live so close to the wonders of our Life-Trees that we can’t see them clearly. Maybe sitting on a stump from time to time would help us gain new perspectives on our lives. I don’t know about civilized people, but I think I’d gladly trade being civilized for the perspective afforded me by sitting on my stump any day.