Ashes to Ashes

A break from the astronomy–though last evening offered really good seeing and high transparency, and I had the best views I’ve ever had of Jupiter and of M13.

The ash trees are dying.  All of them.  Everywhere on this continent.

I’ve always liked ash trees.  They have a rugged bark, white wood, long delicate fingers of foliage.  And for about twenty years now, a hitchhiker from foreign parts, the emerald ash borer, has been patiently extirpating them.

I assume that’s why there’s a dead ash on the property, and another looking very peakèd right beside it.

Haven’t found S-galleries yet, but I have heard a rumor that the borer has come to town.  (S-galleries:  winding S-shaped worm tracks on the surface of the wood, beneath the bark.  Filled with sawdust and frass, which is a nifty synomym for larva poo.)

One of our other big ash trees had to come down a year ago, because its trunk was split along ten feet of its height and it was a matter of time before it fell on the house.  The two had grown up and grown old together.

In other words, I could be wrong about the borer having arrived; but why would my tiny hacienda be exempt from a vast calamity?

The felled tree has slowly been turning into another kind of ash in the woodstove.  It’s been heating us for almost two months now.  I huffed and puffed with wedges, sledges, axes and gluts as long as I could yesterday.  I’ll have it done this summer for sure. It’s my free gym.

New York State has thrown up its hands and given up.  Save the seeds (the samaras, another nifty word, meaning seed-pods)–preserve the species and hope for a better day.  That’s all they can do.  I’m going to try a soil drench just in case it’s not too late, but I think it’s probably too late.

American chestnut, American elm, and now several species of our beautiful Fraxinus.  Three signature trees that defined the American landscape.  Three iconic arboreal losses to… exactly what was it?

Selfishly, the losses will open up a large chunk of the ecliptic, increasing my somewhat limited view of the night sky by a large percentage.  But I wish it weren’t happening like this.

About Jon

Keyboard artist, sacred musician, teacher, writer, working in New York City and State. Many interests include music theory and history, literature, astronomy, genealogy, philosophy and theology, gardening, and good food.
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