You Might Have To Cut Down Your Favorite Tree In Your Yard. I’m Sorry.

Sophie Lucido Johnson
5 min readAug 10, 2023

On making space.

I loved the forsythia that came with our house, and how could a person not?

This is all it was, but it was everything.

First, there’s that name, sounding like the villainess you root for in a dragon-fantasy novel. Then there’s the fact of forsythia’s yellowness: it’s a flowering shrub that can tower to twelve feet, and when it flames to life in spring, it’s all buttery bloom, at first; quite ostentatious. Our particular forsythia bush scraped against the back windows of the house. My mother-in-law wanted to significantly cut it back and I protested.

“It symbolizes excitement! Anticipation! A new start! Doesn’t that seem right?” I’d said.

“Sure,” she’d said. “But I keep walking into it.”

But I loved it. Beneath it, I felt like I was in the eponymous Secret Garden, overgrown and romantic. The next year, an oriole landed in it, and I put half an orange in its branches. Birds loved it. We ate summer dinners in its shade. Bird feeders hung from it, nasturtiums got tangled up in it, and when a chestnut-sided warbler flew into our window, we tucked him into one of its elbows while he healed.

Then, a few years ago, I demanded that we get a bean arch. This was because of a plot line on the television show Joe Pera Talks To You that was about a bean arch. (If you haven’t seen this, please stop what you are doing, for the love of God, and watch it. The whole season. This post can wait.)

At last, this year, Luke built the arch, and it is beautiful, but our yard really doesn’t have a lot of sun, and it really doesn’t have a lot of space, and I wasn’t really consulted, and none of that matters because the thing was done and anyway, he built it right under the forsythia.

“I worry it won’t get enough sun,” he said.

“Yep,” I said.

“We could always cut down the forsythia.”

And this was ridiculous, because we could NOT cut down the forsythia. That was my initial thought. But “no” is my initial thought about a lot of…