It started with a loud crack. Like a really big twig snapping. It was one of the first nights of the spring warm enough to have the bedroom window open and, with loons the only other sound, the noise was startling.

The loud crack was followed by another about 10 minutes later. Then a few more. Over the next hour, the noises got louder.

With the first couple of cracks, I wondered if there was a large animal in the grove of trees across my narrow road in Belgrade Lakes, but my cat, on the bed with me, was stretched out and purring. Something as small as a moth will send her into full predator-prey mode, so it didn’t seem like it was an animal.

As the cracking, snapping noise turned into a louder rat-a-tat-tat, I got out of bed to look out the window. Squinting into the dark night, I thought it must be the neighbor over on Main Street who chose some weird hours of the morning last year to do some chainsawing and grinding. On the other hand, it sounded like it could be a big fire, or fireworks, but there was no flash, no smell.

As I still peered through the trees, not seeing anything and figuring what I really needed to do was go out in the yard and see what I could see, there was an explosion. In one quick second, I thought, “What’s exploding? I can’t see anything.” The next second I realized the limb on one of the giant maples in my front yard was crashing toward my house.

We all know the philosophical question about the tree falling in the forest and whether it makes a sound.


I can say, unequivocally, that, yes, it makes a sound. In fact, it makes a lot of sounds.

This limb is bigger than many trees. It’s 3 feet around, stretches from the road, past my front yard and ends beyond the back end of my house, with hundreds of tangled limbs and small branches coming off of it. On its side, its branches reach past the second floor of my house.

In the nearly two weeks since it fell, it’s pretty much formed its own ecosystem. My cat has disappeared in there and been lost for hours. The post office called and wants to give it its own ZIP code.

Kidding. But given its size and other considerations, it’s going to be there for a while.

And now it’s clear that not only does a tree make a hell of a noise when it comes down, but it continues to cause noise as long as it lies in the yard.

Never was this clearer than this weekend, when I started the laborious process of cutting it up.


Note to self: Don’t start a project involving a giant tree limb, a chain saw, a dog and a cat on a Sunday when there’s an active church parking lot across the street.

There’s nothing like a huge tree in the yard to get total strangers to stop and offer thoughts and suggestions. I’ll break it down with the most common.

Number one comment: It’s a good thing it didn’t hit the house.

Yes, it is. I think we can all agree on that. The giant limb had the grace to fall square in the narrow gap between my house and the empty building next door.

Number two comment: That’s a big job.

Yes. Yes it is.


Number three comment: Is (he/she/the dog/the cat) your helper?

No, more like supervisors. And no, they are not in danger. Unlike many humans, they know better to get anywhere near a chainsaw and the branches it’s cutting.

Number four comment: “You’re going to want to (pick one) take the rest of that tree down; take both those trees down; get a bigger chainsaw; find someone to do that for you; find someone with a wood chipper; etc.”

Yes. Thank you. I hadn’t thought of any of those things. So yes, stranger, thank you.

Even when not working on the tree, I get helpful suggestions.

While I was mowing the lawn Monday, two strangers stopped to tell me that I wouldn’t be able to mow the entire lawn as long as the tree was in it.


Yes. Thank you. Duly noted.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate helpful suggestions and friendly insights.

I certainly understand that in a small town where not a lot happens, a giant tree limb and the jagged aftermath of such a disaster is a fascination.

It’s just that, well, yeah, I know it’s there. I know it’s big. I can see it from three-quarters of the windows in my house. It’s looking in the living room and home office windows, poking the screen of the back porch. The pile of limbs I’ve cut off, until I can make a path through the branches to dump them in the woods behind my house, is blocking a lot of my dooryard.

I certainly know how much different this column would be, or how there may not even be one, had it fallen a little more to the left, or had I decided 30 seconds earlier to go out in the yard to check the noise out.

I can unequivocally say the tree is making itself heard, in a lot of ways.

Maureen Milliken is news editor of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel Email her at Twitter: @mmilliken47. Kennebec Tales is published the first and third Thursday of the month.

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