Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tree Hugger

As I begin to write I am sickened by the sound of a chainsaw echoing through my neighborhood. Although the situation might not be a dire as it seems, my core rattles from the violent noise and I am further jarred by rhythmic crashes of dismembered tree parts being dropped into the back of a ratty old pick up.

Where there once towered a beautiful, thriving 35 year old Palm, there remains only sky.

You'll often hear people react with flippant remarks like, "it's just a tree" but for me the act of cutting down a vibrant healthy living thing seems like a senseless act; a disregard for nature, for beauty, for life.

The reasoning behind the brutal removal was that my neighbor didn't like the tree. Didn't like the tree? How can something so strong and statuesque be a nuisance to anyone? Did she never notice the way that tree danced in the ocean breezes, moving with it's partner (the now lone palm that still stands on our side of the fence), leaves intertwining, a slightly and slowly bowing with the weather? The bright green fans against the clear blue sky? It's deepening silhouette of the evening against the oranges and reds of the late afternoon sky? Did she not hear the sound yesterday of the wind coming in the trees, announcing to all that fall is making it's annual visit?

I am deeply saddened by the loss of a part of the landscape I have loved for the 5 years we've lived here. It is the last to go from the yard next to ours. There were 4 more a year ago but they had to go by order of the city. Seeing those 4 be butchered to stumps was hard enough but the neighbors that lived there then were given no option, just a notice on the door; an ultimatum that the trees would have to come down one way or another. In the massacre, they left one to remain as it was not "in the way" of the power lines. And now, for no reason at all, it too has been chopped to the ground.

There is a history with me and trees I guess. This is not the first time I have felt sadness for this kind of loss. As we moved into this house, we moved away from a home surrounded by trees; the 80 year old Jacaranda that wore it's lacy lavender gown every year and graciously cooled our unconditioned house in the summer and provided a playful, almost human form of outstretched stick arms in winter, the old craggy plum tree that only offered a few plums each year but whose bark delighted and intrigued me with it's texture and rich color, and the sister peach trees that would dazzle us with their spring display of tiny pink paper blossoms and then offer up their succulent fruit to our family providing enough to share with the entire neighborhood. Such generosity. Our ritual of the season's first peach is one of my fondest memories in that house, as we would take our pick of the warm, sun ripened fruit and sit on the shaded porch, as we allowed ourselves to become intoxicated by sweetness as we savored all we we hold in out mouths while the excess dripped down our chins. Nectar from the Gods.

Before we moved from that house, I took an afternoon in the yard, shooting photographs of our trees. They had been there long before us but we lived there long enough to feel they were a part of our family or perhaps more that we had become a part of theirs. It felt good to take the time to honor them this way knowing with each photograph I would be holding a memory. It was a way I could say thank you for all they provided us.

The house was sold to people who claimed they loved the trees and that made leaving a little less difficult. But one day I got a desperate call from a dear friend (our old neighbor) that they were cutting the trees down. Her voice was shaking and in the background I could hear the chainsaws. It was as if the wind were knocked out of me and I could hardly breath, let alone speak. And it was evident she felt the same way. They were killing the extended family we left behind. The trees all went, one by one. The lovely sisters, the craggy plum, and the glorious and nurturing Jacaranda until the house was left standing bare and alone.

I look around my house now and see the photographs that I took that delicious afternoon 5 years ago of our trees and am thankful for the memories they hold, grateful for the pictures that remind me of the energy and beauty that infused us and how very much I loved them.

As the chainsaw continues to rage outside I feel a small void in my heart as I am reminded that I miss our old trees and that now, one more is added to the list. Or perhaps it's more than just the trees. Could it be that I regard them as the living landmarks I encounter along my journey? Maybe these giants remain rooted in my life's landscape as symbols of my past or the memories of things I don't want to let go of. Being a bright eyed 20 something, falling in love, exchanging vows, birthing a baby, sharing the simplest of nature's delights with my daughter, finding my way as an artist, a wife, a mother, and woman? Maybe that's why when the trees come down my heart aches with the sadness of the ages. Maybe a tree by any other name is really just a part of me.


PeetsMom said...

Oh Tracey! That is just awful. Maybe, just maybe the neighbor will plant another tree? I hope so.

I sure remember the shade of the jacaranda in your front yard. The plums and the peaches in the backyard...it was a beaufitul cylce..flowers to fruit to neighbor to jam and back to you!

I do miss that. Thankfully we still have pictures and our memories of good times under trees!


Cari said...

Ugh. I'm sorry, Tracey. I completely agree with you that it is so disappointing to see trees cut down for no reason. :( We are lucky to have a lot surrounded on all sides with tress. Already we've had many a game of hide and seek in them and Foo has tried to climb a few too.

I too have great memories of tress growing up. We had one where all 3 of us kids would go to hang out. I remember my dad telling me after a bad storm a few years ago that half of that tree was gone. Even when the tress was lost "by nature" it still left a void.

Mandaroo said...

1st, such a gorgeous portrait! I love it. Definately a framer!

Secondly, as a fellow tree hugger, I feel your sadness. When we lived in Corona, we had a brand new house, so we planted many beautiful trees and plants. One in particular was a willow tree in the front yard. We watched it grow from a small 6 ft tree to a 20-30 foot tree over 5 years. I loved that tree. It's silhouette's shadow danced through my bathroom window onto the side of a dresser and I would lie in bed in the morning and watch it dance. I would be still in the moment and just really appreciated it's beauty. When we went back less than a year after it sold, it was gone. I too, was devestated. You are not only an amazing photographer, but I never knew you had such a talent for writing. Sorry for writing so much, but it touched me........

~ Melody ~ said...

Oh Tracey, I feel it. How miserable you must feel. The beautiful old trees surrounding our new home was one of the things that drew me to it.
My boys are outraged anytime they see a tree being cut down, or "progress" in the way of construction which destroys natural beauty. I hope their generation continues this emotion.

Love the shot at PT.

Kyran said...

we looked at a potential new house the other night. in my eyes, it's chief feature was a huge old oak in front.

then we got home, and it seemed like our Japanese maple -the one my boys practically live in- stretched out its branches to me as I got out of the van: don't go.

lovely post.

Tertia said...

I Feel your outrage at somebody cutting down a tree just because they don't like it. My dear mother used to say people that cut down trees can harm children too.

I remember about ten years ago we had to cut down a huge tree in our backyard necause the core had started rotting for some reason and the tree was going to fall down at any time and hit our bedroom! I cried that night when the birds came home to sleep and their home was gone. I had robbed not only the tree of the little life it had left, but an entire community of their home. It took me a really long time to step into my backyard without feeling giulty.

Reading this made the memory come flooding back.

I also remember the neighbour complaining first that the tree was making a mess in her pool and then that the birds were making a mess on her roof!! Where were the poor birds supposed to sleep after we took their home away???? Some people just don't get it!!!!

Anna said...

What a lovely post about a terrible story. Well done, and I am sorry, I feel your pain!

Jennifer/The Word Cellar said...

So sad. When I visited my college campus a few years ago and discovered that my very favorite tree, in my "thinking spot," was gone, I felt like a piece of me had been cut down. Change happens, I get that. Old buildings were torn down to make way for new ones. But this tree was nowhere near those locations. The loss of my tree was worse than any of the building changes. I still miss it, even though I'm not there to not see it.

Belinda said...

The electric co-op here has been mowing down giant trees, cutting an enormous swath, for the past week. And they just leave the stumps. Where we lived before, they actually came all the way down my 300-ft. driveway, mowing down FOURTEEN 20-year-old crepe myrtles. I was nearly apoplectic with fury.

On the other hand, our current property is so choked with trees that no sunshine can get through, grass doesn't grow, my horses have no forage, and I'm miserable. I never considered, beforehand, the "down" side of a tree-covered lot.

tracey said...

thanks everyone for the comments of support. it's amazing to hear your stories. thank you for sharing!