Our spruce tree sculpture

Our spruce tree sculpture

By Bernie Sander


The friendly giant

An aerial view of Google Earth showed a huge black cloud, smack in the middle of our backyard on the south side of Brown’s Inlet. Reaching over 50 feet, our mighty spruce tree featured three distinctive trunks branching skyward. We happily swept the deluge of tiny pinecones and practiced our bending techniques.


A Slow decline

Over the last years, there were ever more withered limbs. Finally, in the summer of 2023, there were only dead branches and no more pine needles and cones. We summoned an arborist recommended by a good friend. His first question to me was how long I’d lived here. Odd question, I thought but answered: “Almost 40 years.” And how tall was it when you moved here? “Same height,” I replied. Well, the normal lifespan of a spruce is 70 years and yes, your tree is dead. So much for our bird haven, privacy screen, curtain and shade provider.


What to do

Max Carmanico, our arborist, stated that before he could remove the tree, Ottawa Hydro had to remove the branches to the height of its power line. So, a call was placed, and a file was opened. The worker’s strike coupled with the ongoing derecho clean-up made our tree a low priority. But each month, I dutifully called to ensure we remained on the radar. Only when I noted that the threat of falling branches was increasingly real was a visit prompted. So now we were in the queue, and a date was set for April 2024. A three-man crew arrived at 9 a.m. with ladder and hard hats. Within an hour the necessary branches were removed by the amazing chainsaw work of the solitary climber. A neat pile of felled branches and major trunk sections now occupied our backyard.



Our arborist returned a few days later to finish the job . . . no crew, no ladder. He acrobatically climbed the main trunk and moved like a cat between the three separate trunks, expertly dropping branches and two six-foot trunk sections within three meters of the tree. Deftly wielding a chainsaw, our old friend was reduced to a height of 17 feet, with three distinct trunks still pointing skyward, the same length as the yellow canoe lying beside it.


To carve or not to carve

We were of two minds. Jen liked the clean look with ample sun one the gardens and the option now of planting fruit trees. I, on the other hand, favoured a monumental carving to augment my medicine-man collection of sticks, rock and shells that adorn our lattice work. I succumbed to “the clean look,” and the remaining tree trunk was doomed. While we were away for a week, my sister, who regularly stays with us during the week, was smitten by the carving opportunity. She left me with chainsaw-carving website references and restoked my flames of enthusiasm.


The Naming game

I was set to go to tender and have scaffolding erected. But our arborist was up to the challenge and after several design debates, the work was contracted for early May. Originally, the three hands were to symbolize the Hands of God, Fate and Friendship. But hands could prove tricky, so the design morphed to flames licking skywards. Over the course of a day, pivoting on a huge ladder with expert chainsaw strokes, the three trunks took the designed shape. Day Two was designated for fine-tuning, sanding and staining. The white trunks, denuded of bark were very imposing . . . but barn-door stain, so goes the colour name, was chosen to both blend in and protect.


What else could it be

So now we have an imposing 17-foot chainsaw-carved piece of wood art in our backyard. Interesting what people see in shapes: everything from flames to hands, claws, tentacles, a squid and even a giant, scary, deep-sea creature. By all means, view it from the Brown’s Inlet park or come around and see it from all sides in its full splendour. Jen, our Boston Terrorist Bailey, old cat Chue and I live at 25 Broadway Avenue.


Bernie Sander is a 40-year Glebe resident and tree art lover.



Please box:


“When I’m Gone”

Song by Bobby Bare, 1964


Will anybody know I’ve been here when I’m gone

Will anything that I’ve done here live on

Everyman’s allowed just so much time

And all you take along is what you leave behind

Will anybody know I’ve been here when I’m gone

When I’m gone, when I’m gone?

Share this