I had to make a very difficult decision a few months ago. We arranged for an arborist to come to a house we own in the Ohio River Valley. It was the first home we owned and is now a rental that (barely) is in the black. Since who knows when we might be able to sell it, we will take what we can get. We’ve been having some problems with the tenants reporting critters getting into the attic. Part of this is because the house is 102 years old and has the original slate roof and some of the gutter area is weak. But a big part of this is due to this pair of wonderful 102 year-old trees out in the front of our house that shade this non air conditioned building in the summer with their awesome canopy. Apparently they also offer a path for squirrels and raccoons to race up to the roof and into the dormer of this 2.5-story classic foursquare. So we called an arborist to trim the trees back a bit.
One the trees is an Oak. The other is an Ash. To my horror, the arborist called back saying we have a big problem: the Ash is infected with the invasive Emerald Ash Borer. This is unsurprising as Ohio has pretty much lost the battle of EAB spread since it showed up just across the border in Michigan in 2002, but it still came as a shock. Since we had already lost about 30% of the canopy over the past couple of years, our choices were awful. We could either start an aggressive pruning and (and fairly expensive) insecticide routine yearly for the foreseeable future OR pay a couple of grand to cut this tree down. The treatment option has no guarantees. Sometimes you get lucky and eradicate after about 3 years, but it usually just buys you time.
Upon this news, I literally mourned the potential loss of this tree for days. Even though I haven’t lived there in several years, I kept thinking of all the hot muggy afternoons where I sat on the porch in the shade of the tree waiting for the thunderstorm to roll through. I remember loving how my first baby’s cradle in the 3rd story attic space was tucked into the dormer and how wonderful it was to watch him track with his newborn eyes the swaying branches in the low winter sun. I loved this tree. I know many other generations loved this tree. But it was very sick and I had to do something. Eventually I decided I couldn’t cut it down – at least not yet. So we have set up this elaborate pruning/treatment system with the promise to evaluate in 3 years.
Sometimes I feel like my relationship with Mormonism is similar. Objectively, my relationship with the institutionalized church is sick. Many of the doctrines and history go beyond making no sense as I actually find them repulsive. I’ve always struggled with cultural aspects, and I am not getting the community aspect in my (fairly new) ward. I can hardly stand to sit through RS these days with the overemphasis on a 1950’s version of gender roles. The rearranging of ward boundaries has been disruptive to my preschooler’s primary experience and he is resisting going on Sundays now. I have many opportunities to serve humanity outside of church and enjoy those activities a great deal more than most of the service opportunities that come up in church. Everything points to cutting it out of my life. But then I think about my ancestors, my family of origin, a few times in my life where the gospel brought that cool breeze on a muggy day and I can’t cut it out completely. So I do some drastic pruning by setting up boundaries that will work for my family and an elaborate personal treatment system to make sure I’m getting some sort of spiritual support somewhere with the promise to revisit in a couple of years.