“Praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind. To be happy, rest like a giant tree, in the midst of them all.”   ~Buddha



I remember in a social psychology class in college studying groups and people and how we react, act and interact.  One of the lessons centered on waiting in line and the when and why we decide to leave the long line.  Do we stick it out or decide that maybe it is futile?  Realizing all the while we might get up to the front of the line eventually, but is it really worth the wait?  How do we decide, how do we react?

Fascinating stuff that taught me some pretty powerful lessons about why I act the way I do, and that there are times when it is better to just walk away. Sometimes you can see it coming and you have a chance to go a different way.  Sometimes it just happens and we decide how to handle it…do we react or respond proactively?

I think nature has had the most profound effect on me in this regard.  It has taught me a great lesson in control and letting go.  Where else are you facing harsh conditions that are not the norm, and you have to try and remedy the situation.  Of course you can react, but after all, ‘it is what it is’.  I find that phrase freeing.  It is simple and succinct.   It says it all.  Think about the past few seasons.  Several killing freezes in April followed by extreme heat and drought.  We have had winters that seem to go on forever.  Blight and pests that kill whole crops right before our eyes.

So what do you do when faced with these obstacles?  I have learned to see the lessons within and try to make the best of the situation.  It still doesn’t quiet all the angst, but it helps.  Nature has taught me there is always another season, that there are small miracles amongst the doom and gloom and that nothing can be taken for granted.

It is a valuable lesson to loosen our grip on the fantasy that we have any control especially when it comes to nature.  And so I have discovered that surrendering to what is inevitable is many times the best thing to do.  When I was growing up we were taught to never surrender.  To fight until the bitter end.  But I have found my greatest success and my greatest strength in surrender.  In letting go of the control or perceived control.  Giving into the situation.  It is a far braver thing to do, and it helps me relieve any suffering caused by the situation.

Surrender is a form of asking for help from within, to look for a solution or to seek help from others.  But without the surrender I cannot find the solution as the tight grip of control will blind me to any other possibilities.  A great weight is lifted when I say OK I have surrendered; changed my mind, let go of my agenda, decided to go a different way.  My body reacts by finally releasing the stress and I know deep down to my core I am now moving in the right direction.

“Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.”   ~Gail Sheehy

So you would think my latest situation would have me well trained to handle any crisis, but I don’t think I had ever imagined anything quite like what is going to happen.  Recently we found out that we will lose all but 2 of our large mature trees in the back of the house.  As many of you are already experiencing in other states, we have the dreaded emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive pest from Asia, here in NY.  It is just a couple of counties to the west of us, and our state agencies are telling us that it is not if they will come, but when.  NY will lose all its ash trees within the next 10 years, and among these are my 8 wonderful trees.  I wrote about this already in a post at Beautiful Wildlife Gardens.  You can read all about the beetle that is wreaking havoc there.

And the worst part is we are being asked to consider taking the trees down now, as there will not be enough arborists or tree service folks available to take the trees down once they are dead, and will be very dangerous.  If you wait until the trees are infected, the trees will likely fall down and cause lots of damage.  My trees are between 50 and 80 feet tall.  They are all over the garden providing shade for me, the garden and wildlife.  Food and shelter for some critters, and such beauty.

How can I cut down these beauties that are alive and well?  I am feeling the need to lament about my trees; to mourn them.  Every time I begin to think about cutting them down, I feel sick to my stomach and begin to tear up.  After all these are living, breathing beings.  And before you ask, yes you can spray and hang up traps, but it will not stop the EAB.  It will slow them down, but not by much.

So we are working on a plan.  Our largest most beautiful tree already has a problem we have been fighting; carpenter ants.  We have controlled the situation, but the EAB looks for weak or sick trees and attacks them first.  So this fall or next spring we are cutting this tree by 1/2 to 1/3.  Then we will cut down some of the other larger trees and replace them.  I will not cut all of them.  Some will be cut in half and left as snags for wildlife.  The cost is going to be outrageous. At least $2000 a tree.  And there is the cost of replacing the trees.

Of the 8, I hope to cut down 5 and leave 3 as snags.  If I cut them all down at once we lose 90% of our shade which will profoundly affect the garden.  So we will cut the trees down a couple at a time spacing the replacements out over 5 years hoping to give each new tree time to grow in.  If our timing is good we will give the garden time to adjust slowly while staying ahead of this pest.  When I developed this plan, I knew it was the best way to mitigate the circumstances and damage because it felt like a weight was finally lifted.  I don’t think I can be home when the trees are felled.  It will be too much for me to bear.  But maybe I need to go through it…I don’t know.

We will have 2 medium swamp maples that will remain.  I plan to replace the ash trees with other wonderful natives like Eastern redbud, American Basswood, Dogwood and oh I don’t know there are so many choices.  I am leaning to those that flower or bear fruit instead of nuts.  What would you decide to do if you were going to lose all your trees?  And what trees would you choose as replacements?





“Surrender is faith that the power of Love can accomplish anything even when you cannot foresee the outcome.”  ~Deepak Chopra







I am linking in with Lucy@Loose and Leafy and her wonderful Tree Following meme.  All pictures are of my white ash trees even the stump. 




Next up on the blog:  Next week I is GBBD which will probably feature the last of the garden blooms.  And that same week I will share a very favorite butterfly book.  Towards the end of the month, I will share another favorite native wildflower for fall.

I will be linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month on the 3rd Tuesday, at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. The next one will be on the 16th.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2012.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

51 Replies to “Surrender”

  1. I would be totally devastated if I had to make this choice. I still remember when the chestnuts went away and how that tragedy changed the American landscape. The ash trees look to go the same way but still we will survive. If I lost my trees (almost all oak) that is what I would replace them with and of course an understory of the smaller understory trees such as dogwoods, redbuds, silverbells, and J. maples. Second choice would be something like Graybeard or maples-newer cultivars. But I would plan their locations so minutely that there would be no fear of ever losing them due to stresses on them in the future. You see, in my landscape the trees there were not planted by man but by nature and they are not all well placed, though I have tried to control my ‘forest’ thru selective removal. Trees require a lot of thought and maintenance to last a long time I think. Unfortunately even that would not help the ash trees. I hope no more trees fall victim to blights or other things.

    1. Thanks Tina for some ideas. I agree that nature does not always place trees in the best spots but then only the strong survive. As these strong trees were selected as the best out of the woods that were felled for development, now they too will fall. I will place the new ones well with an understory.

  2. I feel your anguish. Of our two ash trees, the one is always a little slower to leaf out, a little quicker to shed its leaves. My husband is a tree lover, so we have trees for Africa. Without our ash trees … our garden would be hugely different. They are so big we battled to find space to build our house.

    Better not to be home when the chain saw whines. That noise tears my soul apart. Even when we were cutting down the pecan tree (inherited, problem child, now ‘forgotten’)

    1. I hope to not be home as the first cut happens this week with the largest infested tree will be cut down by about half. Then we plan from there.

    1. Thank you Reed. I will check into these. The American Basswood that I definitely want is also a linden so I am happy about that.

  3. Has the state stepped in in your area with a mandate on culling the ash? Our area has recently been identified to have EAB, yet the insect has been here much longer. EAB can kill a tree in 2 to 3 years. Cornell has this to say, “Early detection is key to controlling the ash borer’s spread, said Mark Whitmore, entomologist with Cornell. If infested trees are detected early, DEC staff will cut down the trees and grind them and the beetles. Then, workers will girdle clusters of a few healthy ash trees, weakening them and making them attractive “population sinks” for the beetles. When those become infested, they too will be cut down and ground up. Entomologists may also apply chemicals to kill the insects.”

    1. No Donna the state has not come in yet as the EAB has not been found here…the quarantine area is 2 counties west…instead Cornell has come in and said that because of the number of ash in our area that they are advising we take down the trees now as it is safer and less expensive. If we wait, then there may be no one to take them down or anyone who will since apparently it is too dangerous and more expensive as the trees fall apart once dead. In our area the State will be working on the parks first so we are on our own…this word came just this summer. They are trying to get us to plan ahead perhaps due to their experience in other parts of the state. I will not use chemicals as they are saying it will not stop the inevitable and prices I have checked into just for my own info are even more expensive in the long run. I would rather plan to take them down slowly now on my own time per the recommendation of Cornell. It seems it is what it is and I am grateful I have time to plan at least. I would hate to have them take all my trees at once. It is just so sad.

  4. Gosh, Donna, I can’t imagine this. Words can’t express. I know they’re just trees, but it’s kind of like saying a pet is just a pet. There’s so much more to it than that. Emerald Ash Borer is closing in on us from the northwest and southeast. I’m scared to think what it will do to Wisconsin’s forests. It sounds like you have a reasoned, well-thought-out plan in place, and you definitely have a healthy attitude of the appropriate time to surrender. I agree with Reed that the native Shagbark Hickory would be an excellent choice:

    On a personal note: This post came at a time when surrendering and moving in a different direction have special meaning for me. Sometimes it’s the absolute best course to take, even though it’s hard. Thanks for the encouragement, dear friend. 🙂 Take care!

    1. Oh Beth, your comment has brought me joy at this sad time. It helps to know my post helped you as well. Thank you dear friend for your kind words and I will check out the hickory…I hope your area is spared from the EAB.

  5. This was both a heartbreaking and uplifting post. Letting go can be hard but also freeing and you’re right that nature teaches us a lot.

  6. Oh Donna, what a shame about your trees. I like your thoughts on surrender.
    As for what trees to replaced the ones lost (or about to be lost)…I do love the American Basswood, Tilia americana, nice large tree with big leaves. We have Shagbark Hickory in our yard…if you don’t want to have a tree with nuts, this one shouldn’t be on your list. That being said it is a nice tree, beneficial to many wildlife creatures. Sassafras is a great tree, love the varied fall colors. American Beech is a great tree as well. Sycamore have great bark. There are a lot of great choices, good luck! (check my Tuesday Trees tab for a list of trees)

    1. Janet I will comb your list. I do love your Tuesday Tree posts and this will be my first stop in researching the replacements. I look forward to all the possibilities.

  7. I’m so sorry about your trees. We feel their loss most deeply don’t we? I know roses are just shrubs, but when mine developed Rose Rosette Disease, I actually cried. Taking down trees is even harder, and I feel for you. Yes, surrender when you can finally get there, is best. Hugs.~~Dee

  8. I was thrilled when I read the beginning of your post because that Buddha quote would be ideal to stick up above my desk at work. It reminded me of the peaceful feeling I get when I walk among the plane trees.
    Then I read the news about your ash trees – so sad.
    I would recommend american sycamore (an ancestor of plane trees) as a replacement, except I think I read that they are vulnerable to a specific disease too.

    1. I love the idea B-A-G and will check them out. Wouldn’t that be wonderful to have an ancestor to your beloved plane trees in my garden. I am glad you did enjoy the first part of the post…that Buddha quote is quite peaceful and uplifting…

  9. It is sad to hear about the Ash trees. I have heard there is also a problem with hemlock trees. I am sad to lose any kind of tree. I wish you success with the replacements.

  10. Nature has indeed a lot of things to teach us . This is a very inspiring post and I juts try to focus on the lessons learned. Thank you.

  11. Donna, I am so sorry about your trees. It is a hard decision you have made; more choices coming and garden changes to deal with. Best of luck!

  12. Hi Donna, i 2nd Diana is saying that you better be out when the chain saws come in. The sound feels like it wacks the soul out! I feel just like you when it comes to these things, however our conditions here are different. Even the supposed to be “authorities” in protecting the environment are not doing the right things in protecting the trees in urban areas. Imagine trees near the sidewalks in centers, being suffocated by the cement too close to the trunks. And i am fully surprised why the workers are not fully supervised by those who know what to do, and do the right thing. These scenes are distressing to see here, but we small people cannot do otherwise! At least it is still better to be living in your place! That feelings will pass Diana, our wisdom will let us through it.

    1. It is sad to hear that we still plant trees carelessly in urban areas…we have that here too and you would think we would learn…so sad for the trees that suffer. Thank you for this lovely comment and I will take solace in knowing that it will pass.

  13. I remember those same lessons, and the concept of investment (of time, and/or energy to that point) influencing, albeit subconsciously, our decision to persist, or throw our hands up in defeat.

    I also remember losing so many elms in the area I lived in as a child in England when Dutch Elm disease tore through that part of the country in the 1970s. It was devastating, even as a child, to watch as my favorite, beautiful, and magnificent, trees succumbed to this new pest, and you feel completely helpless to change the course of events. The landscape was irrevocably altered once those trees died.

    I think it’s wise to work on replacements as you gradually thin those trees that will be affected, to minimize the overall impact on the garden. In my mind, what a situation such as this highlights is the value of diversity. As climates change, economies and commerce change, so too will the pests and diseases that affect our gardens. An example we’re battling with here is California’s citrus crop, which is currently under threat from citrus greening disease. All citrus are affected, so if citrus is your emphasis, the situation is potentially dire.

    In your case, for the eight or so ash trees that you will lose to the borers, perhaps planting trees from 2 or 3 different genera as replacements is wise when selecting new specimens.

    Maintaining diversity in our gardens will, hopefully, help to diminish the impacts from pests such as this in the future. I hope you can mitigate some of the impacts without altering the micro-climate too much in your garden as you address this, as I know how challenging it can be for plants to adapt to sudden changes in sun versus shade (we often lose trees over winter that sudden open up the understory). Most of all, I’m sorry you will have to say goodbye to such beautiful old friends.

    1. Clare I remember when we lost our elms here too…such sad times as they remain one of my favorite trees. I am glad to think my plan has merit. I did not know about the citrus problem…yet another problem for our farmers.

      I like the idea of diversity and I will keep that in mind. I will have to be very careful not to disrupt too much of the gardens climates as we go about the plan..timing will be important.

      Most of all Clare thank you for your support and kind words. You do understand how hard this will be for me to say goodbye to my friends.

  14. I’m so sorry about your trees, Donna. This is so sad. I remember when the high school took down a birch tree to make a parking lot. I could hear it cracking and it felt like my bones were breaking. It was gut wrenching. I can understand your not wanting to be there. I’m so sad for you.

    Surrender can be so difficult but it’s one of those things that gets easier with practice. I’ve found that the older I get the easier it gets. (Knock on wood.) I’m still not a very patient person though. 🙂

    Another hug!

    1. Thanks for the hugs Grace…how we just carelessly cut trees…yes indeed I am finding surrender easier with time and practice…no patience here either 😉

  15. Donna, We had to take down 5 mature trees this year and I was heartbroken. It has totally changed the look and feel of my garden. I haven’t replanted anything yet because it feels like such a monumental decision that I want to make sure I get it right. Good luck with this journey, it’s a bittersweet one.

    1. Oh Debbie I am sorry to hear of your loss and yes it does feel overwhelming…definitely a decision to take time with.

  16. I don’t know what I would do if I had to make that choice, but I would probably go for fruit trees. Apples, plums, cherries. Just starting to get into trees at the moment (new to gardening).

    I’m so sorry about the future of your trees and the hard choices you’re having to make. I would probably have to hug each of them before saying good-bye, as cliche as that sounds.

    1. Oh Gwen I will hug them tightly as I cry for them and for me. I love your idea and we will be planting a native Black Cherry for sure…welcome to the wonderful world of gardening and I hope you can stop by often 🙂

  17. I remember reading your post at Beautiful Wildlife Garden and being so sad for you! We lost a couple giant oaks in our yard soon after we moved in. I was devastated, and we had only had them for a year or two – I’m sure it’s much worse when you have had them for years and have gardens centered around them. We had some cross-sections of the oaks cut and they make great stump seats scattered around the garden. We also planted some new trees, but it will take a while for them to tower over the house like the last ones did.

    I hope you can find some silver lining in choosing some trees that you really love to replace them, as well as designing some new gardens to suit the sunny spots. I know it must be tough to surrender to nature in this way, especially when it is an invasive pest that is causing the problem, which does not seem to be truly nature’s way.

    1. Indie I love that idea and perhaps we might find a garden bench in our garden too….it is harder to accept when it is an invasive pest. The silver lining may not be clear right now, but we will find it.

  18. dear donna, this is a huge huge gardening challenge. The main challenge probably is how to cope with it mentally, and like you, I would turn to Buddhist philosophy, that has helped me to cope with anxiety and loss. We know intellectually that everything including the garden is ephemeral, now you are having to face that. I feel for you, and hope we cyber-friends can help to support you at this terrible time.

  19. dear Donna, I think what I wrote above sounded pompous. I think i was in shock myself when I read the post. I so admire your attitude to this. Already you have planned what to replace them with – wonderful sounding trees. And to do it gradually to keep a bit of shade is such a good idea. Good luck with your unplanned new-look garden, look forward to watching it progress and cheering from behind the screen. If it was me I’d choose some fast growing natives and some fruit trees.

    1. Oh my catmint I loved what you said in both comments and the one was not pompous at all. I appreciate all the support and ideas. I will only be replacing my ash trees with natives one of which is Black Cherry. I know things happen for a reason and my garden is about to change ….I look forward to what it will bring….thank you for all your kind words!!

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