Thursday, July 11, 2019

Treating Symptoms, Finding Cures

One of the things that attracted us to the house in which we currently live was a huge Willow Oak tree that filled the backyard.  I've no idea how tall it was, but its canopy spread over the yard in such a way that there was very little area not shaded.  It made a tremendous difference in the temperatures during the summer and there were few days that were not bearable in the backyard simply because of that tree.

Shortly after moving into the house we began to experience falling tree limbs.  I'm not talking about the small bits and pieces you find on the lawn that simply require picking up and disposal, I'm referring to fairly large limbs that require cutting up with a chain saw before they can be moved.  The photo above is of the first one that did any real damage.  It is difficult to estimate from the photo, but it was about 4 inches in diameter at the base and around 10 to 12 feet in length.  When it fell, we were sitting in the living room and it sounded like someone had lobbed a grenade at us.

There was no apparent reason for the limb to break off and fall.  It appeared to be perfectly healthy.

As time went on, more limbs fell; some larger and some smaller.  The worst was a massive piece, larger than most trees, which fell onto the garage, punching half a dozen holes through the roof.  To give some perspective, at the base of it, my 16" bar chain saw would not reach across it to cut it up.  I measured the longest piece protruding into the work room at the back of the garage and it was over 10 feet long -- that was after the smaller pieces were stripped off as it went through the roof!

Again, there was no apparent reason for the limb to fall.  I decided it was a combination of old age, a few minor spots of disease, but most of all, the tree was so massive that when filled with water, the limbs became too heavy to maintain structural integrity and simply broke from their own weight.  I became tired of patching roofs and decided the tree must come down -- which it did -- several thousand dollars later.

For some reason, I woke up thinking about that tree.  In a way, it symbolizes how we spend lots of time, energy and money addressing symptoms while ignoring the root causes of a problem.  We put bandaids on the cut, but fail to wear protective clothing the next time we are dealing with thorns.  We don't find a cure for the headaches, we just take aspirin to alleviate the immediate pain.  Okay, I've belabored that point a bit, but you get the picture.  We treat the symptom and avoid the cure.

Sometimes the cure is expensive.  It requires taking out the beautiful tree that provides shade and cooler temperatures to the back yard.  The cost is real.  The question I had to face was one of a slow trickle of expense and labor over years with the risk of a catastrophic event such as a limb crashing down and taking out a large portion of the roof, or the sizable, but manageable, expense of removing the tree.

It was a hard choice and I miss that tree.  Did I mention that if I stood and embraced the tree, my arms would not reach half way around it at chest height?  When removed, the stump was over 5 feet in diameter and the rings indicated the tree was about 120 years old.  It was a sad day, but I haven't had to patch the roof a single time since.

This post goes back to some of the time management commentaries I have made previously.  The urgent issue was dealing with a limb when it fell.  The important issue was figuring out why they were falling and addressing that problem.  Once the cause was determined and a cure effected, the urgent issue of falling limbs was no longer adding to my "to do" list.  I suspect we all have similar things in our lives that need a cure.

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