Hacking our way to peace

"Tripp, you need to come home right away," I blurted out when my husband answered his cellphone. "There's a guy cutting off the branches of our trees!"

Ten years ago we had just moved to the country. It seemed as though every day I was dealing with something new - like the morning I rose to find a dozen cows standing on our driveway, or the first afternoon the wind shifted and the fragrance of freshly fertilized fields swept into our little piece of paradise.

Today the furious buzz of a chain saw had sent an alarm, pulling me toward the chicken coop we still hadn't quite figured out how to get going. I was used to chain-saw noise - after all, my husband is an arborist. And that made me even more horrified to find a macho young guy in red flannel and denim hacking away at the branches of a row of 70-foot-tall cypress trees that lined our side of the fence.

"Hey!" I yelled, flapping my arms for emphasis, "What are you doing to our trees?"

"Lady, they may be your trees, but these branches are hanging over my uncle's property. And he doesn't want them anymore."

Living in the country, it takes a while to get around to meeting your neighbors. Now I wished I had made more of an effort to meet the "uncle" who was our neighbor to the north.

"Can you wait 'til I call my husband? I don't know much about trees, but he does. I think he should be in on this."

"Lady, I've got my work cut out for me. I ain't waitin' for no one."

The chain saw was buzzing before I even made it back in the house to grab the phone.

"Just try to calm down, Barbara," Tripp was saying now. "Have you tried talking to him?"

"He won't listen. I think it's a 'man thing.' What if he cuts down all the branches on his side? Won't the trees fall over on ours?"

"I'll be right there." Tripp said.

Tripp is taller and braver than I - though I've often thought that if I were taller I'd be braver, too. He parked his truck in front, slammed the door, then strode the quarter mile uphill to our neighbor's house. Waiting anxiously at home, I finally heard a welcome silence. The chain saw had stopped. Still I waited. Dusk was gathering, and I was starting dinner when I finally heard Tripp at the front door.

"What happened?" I asked.

"Not much." Why do husbands say such things? I just kept looking at Tripp so he would know he wasn't finished.

"Well, at first he was pretty angry. He thought we were interfering, and the tree branches are hanging over his property, so he's got a right to cut them - even if it ruins their shape. But I told him it's the wrong season to trim evergreens. If we cut the trees now, the sap will attract beetles, and beetles can kill these trees. We agreed to wait until fall, then I'll do the trimming myself. That way the trees will stay healthy."

I waited for more.

"I think we'll be good friends," Tripp said, pulling off his boots.

"Why in the world would you think that?" I asked. "I mean, we hadn't even met until today, and everybody was so upset."

"Yeah, but we worked it out together," Tripp said. "I think when you've been through a conflict with someone and resolved it, your relationship will be much stronger in the end."

Wow. I never would have thought of it that way, but time after time since my husband said that, I've found it to be true. Peace doesn't mean wimping out in the face of conflict with a neighbor or a friend, but facing and resolving it - together.

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