Care Filled Deconstruction


All things change. Seeing altering situations as needed transformation allows the emergence of elegance and grace, because with an open heart, we notice what is needed and craft actions to support the shift.

This week I am in the process of removing a standing dead tree. It is a strong but lifeless pole piercing the sky. Since its location is framed by two power lines, it needs to come down. Being left on its own would likely cause a deeper issue in the future. Cutting it down from the bottom is also not an option because it is close enough to the lines that if it fell erratically while full length, it would take the electricity out. The only solution is to bring it down in short sections. There was a conversation about getting a tree service in to do the work, but I studiously decided to take on the project myself, in part because it scared me a little bit and I needed to find out if my fear was rational. I promised myself that I would assess the situation and if I needed help I would get it.

Sizing up the risk was a task of building a relationship with the challenge. I needed to know if I could remove this tree with no harm to myself, the power lines or other trees. It was obviously daunting and required great care. I decided to start by simply climbing the tree and feel my way into the question.

My assessment was detailed. After fighting through the undergrowth to the base of the conifer, I found a root system that had a sound grip on the earth. This winter’s 100 km per hour winds had stress tested the former evergreen with no ill affect. It died as a result of too many hot summers. Climate change. The trunk and branches were leaning away from the wires, but still needed to be taken down with the greatest diligence and care. The climbing was easy. On my first foray up, I recognized that I needed to get used to the sway because it nearly made me sick. I have spent a lifetime in high places, but rock and ice usually don’t sway. Eventually, I climbed the tree to its top and fastened two lines; one for protecting me that would move down as I went down and another for directing the top of the tree to a desired landing after the first cut.

I removed all of the branches one by one with a hand saw about 30cm away from the trunk. This allowed rungs up the tree but clear passage to the ground for anything I cut off from above so as not to be pushed out and into the power lines. With a steel cable anchor wrapped around the trunk I was all set to top the tree with my chain saw. Before I did, I reviewed all of the steps of my plan with my friend and neighbour Nevin on the ground and asked him if I was missing any needed action. Looking at the challenge from all sides he gave a green light. I cut a notch on the west side followed by a higher cut on the east, stopping short of slicing through the trunk. I shut off the chain saw and with a hand saw made three finishing strokes and the top fell exactly where planned.

Once topped, I started taking off three foot sections of the trunk at a time, moving my anchoring systems down as I went. There is some left to do, for an afternoon this week when I feel fresh, but the risk is mostly gone now.

Why is this story important?

Human beings make a habit of resisting change. We fight for things to stay the same but, in our effort for a static predicable life we miss the elegance of the dance. Change always looks risky, seems scary and we usually want others to absorb the uncertainty before ourselves. But on closer inspection the risks are usually manageable in small bits. Just like my tree. Tiny shifts help change become a reality, without added drama.

Our energy systems as they relate to fossil fuels are standing deadwood in our society. Humanity is at risk of suffering deeply if we do nothing. If we change too fast, we will likely cause unneeded damage. Like my standing dead tree, we need to deeply respect the current reality, and take action slowly that move us toward a better situation. Every aspect of the change will seem daunting. Likely we will feel unnerved as things sway. This is a truth for all of us. But action is required before the risk deepens.

In my own life, I need to deconstruct a career I have spent my life building. For me it has run its course. In my heart of hearts I can no longer provide adventures for people because they seem to be serving no greater good at a time when we can no longer afford to play our time away. I need to see a step in a direction of change in absolutely everything I do. I believe that human beings do not need more adventure because it is only a distraction from the situation we all inhabit. What is needed is adventure’s inner half. I think we need to slow down, take stock, and discern every action we take and only then will we be able to mitigate the risk humanity and all of the other species on the planet face. It seems to me that we are missing adventure’s greatest teaching, respect for consequence. We can’t afford to miss that lesson. Our collective situation seems daunting. . . Perhaps we can wait for someone else to do it first? Perhaps we can just leave things be and let our world collapse on its own? If there is one thing adventure has taught me is that, when a risk is identified, take direct action to mitigate it in some way.