Early last spring four men and a woman arrived at the house across the road from us in a beat-up pickup and a larger flatbed truck that had also seen better days. Within minutes they fired up chainsaws and began felling large pine trees on the western edge of my neighbor’s property, 45 or 50 feet away from his house. My wife and I watched (and listened; the sound of multiple chainsaws is terrifying) in horror as one after the other beautiful, healthy tree went down.
I don’t have neighborly relations with this neighbor (I’ll call him J, though the chances he reads this blog are zero) on whose land the carnage was occurring. Over the years J and his children appeared on winter weekends to ski at Sunday River, and we exchanged words and waves but rarely really spoke. The sign of his presence was two bright outdoor spotlights that shone directly across the road into our bedroom window. The lights went on at midnight Friday when J arrived and remained on until he left on Sunday afternoon. When I once initiated a rare conversation to ask if the spotlights could be turned off overnight, J suggested I should get blinds for our bedroom windows. What fear motivated this light display—a wandering bear or moose? I never found out. During those winter visitations, the house belonged to J’s father, a genial person who rarely used it. When he died last winter, J inherited it.
Although I had a phone number in Massachusetts for the father, I didn’t have any contact information for J, so when the tree cutting began I did a Bing search and found the number for his business. I called to ask what was happening across the road. He said that before his father died he made J promise to cut down several trees that the father feared might fall on the house. And so J engaged these folks to carry out his father’s wishes. “Several trees” were not what the loggers (a description they really didn’t warrant) had in mind. Over three days they felled 17 trees, opening a wide vista that changed the character of our neighborhood. I’m not an arborist, but one of the state’s most respected ones lives around the road, and he shook his head when he saw what had happened. He attributed it to the high price of pulp wood and speculated that my neighbor was probably getting the work done for free in return for allowing the loggers to sell the wood—hence their hunger to take far more than a few. To the expert eyes of the arborist, the trees had seemed healthy and no threat to the house.
Over the summer we tried to adapt to the new scene across the road, one consequence of which was that the shade the former woods offered our deck was lost and I had to buy and erect a large umbrella to make it possible for us to sit on the deck on sunny days. We mourned the loss of the trees and all they provided in shade and simple beauty. Then two weeks ago the trees got their revenge. Fifty-mile gusts that afternoon brought down a large limb from a tree near the neighbor’s house, on the other side from where the major damage had been done, but a tree that the loggers had trimmed—inadequately, as it turned out. The branch crashed across the road, blocking it, and bringing down the electric line to the neighbor’s house. I phoned CMP to report the problem and then phoned J. He seemed nonplussed.
That evening CMP arrived to saw and remove the branch, opening the road to local traffic. The CMP man came to my house to report that he was unable to reconnect the electric line because the harness at the house was destroyed and would have to be repaired by an electrician before power could be restored. He asked if I would pass that word to the owner. I did so the next morning, and J was again nonplussed. He said the electrician they had used in the past had retired, but he didn’t ask me to recommend anyone in the area. I did tell him that I had myself tried for two weeks to locate an electrician to do a small job for me and that the busy construction scene in our area would make it hard to find someone.
That was two weeks ago, and the electric line is still down. I assume my neighbor has electric heat. The recent spell of warm weather came as a lucky break for him. But normal November temperatures have returned. I have no idea what my neighbor is going to do. I know I should be sympathetic—and, after all, it could have happened to me if the branch had been four or five feet longer and thus taken down my power line. But I have to confess that I’m experiencing some unattractive pleasure in seeing what happened. And, at least for now, it’s nice not to have those glaring spotlights. Am I wrong to feel this way? Well, it wasn’t me but the trees that took their revenge. I cheer them on.