Goodbye, Tree

September 16, 2008 at 3:13 am 4 comments

There’s so much crazy stuff going on in the world, I’ve been almost paralyzed about what to write about. More wars, inane politics, bad TV, hurricanes and train crashes. I recall that during my last pregnancy, too, the ills of society seemed more pronounced and frightening. Bringing new life into these old problems certainly is a lot to think about.

Today, though, what saddened me most was closer to home. It was a tree. A beautiful, healthy, 20-year-old tree, which happens to be uprooting the foundation of our cozy townhouse. And the homeowner’s association failed to tell me a decision had been made to chop it down today.

So, I was sitting in my living room reading with my daughter this afternoon when I heard our windchimes rattle (though it was not windy) and a chainsaw start, right in front of my door. I rushed out to see three guys ready to go at our lovely tree (although I suppose it is not technically “ours,” sigh). I tried to argue, can’t we just trim the roots?, but to no avail. I called my husband at school upset (which I rarely ever do), and he sensitively told me that our house was in trouble if the tree did not go. He didn’t know they were doing it today, but he knew it was the tree or our house. He told me gently to take down the windchime hanging from the tree’s great branch and bring it inside, and let the men cut the tree down. He said he was so sorry and that he loved me.

I still argued, and I still cried. It seemed so awful to me to see a living, breathing, healthy tree get cut down because of our house. To see the spider webs and bird perches crash to the ground. To see the shade we’ve lounged in for three years disappear, leaving our front porch bare and unprotected. To watch the leaves my daughter and I lovingly sweep off our front sidewalk each week (yes, our cracked and uneven sidewalk from tree roots) hit the ground and get hauled off into trucks.

I cried, and I told my daughter why. I told her it was OK, so as not to panic her, but I let her see me cry about the loss of a beautiful tree. I told her I hoped we could get another one, one that would grow a different kind of roots. But I was still sad that the men chopped down our lovely tree. She cried with me for a moment, then asked if we could make play dough.

So, we made play dough as the chainsaws hacked away the rest of the tree and carted it away. We mixed flour and salt and oil and purple and yellow food coloring as the noise of motors and falling branches continued outside the kitchen window. We went on with our lives, did what we do, as workers killed the healthy, inconvenient tree in our yard.

It was like we do every day, really, go on with our comfortable lives as wars rage and women are beaten and people starve. We may see the horrors and lament them, but we still go on with what we do each morning, afternoon and evening. Can we be doing more? Of course. Should I have chained myself to the tree? Should I have argued more for another solution? I’m not really sure. Did I want to save my home? Of course, don’t we all? Isn’t that what all the fighting is supposedly for? Each of us feeling we deserve to live in a safe and comfortable home. And, yet, it still feels wrong, an unfair choice. The more powerful taking out the defenseless.

I’m not quite sure how to conclude this post — perhaps there is no real conclusion to be made here. But, the reality is that I will go on doing what I do, explaining to my daughter the best I can how to live compassionately and humanely. Show her by example that we can try to do what we can — volunteer at the phone banks for causes we believe in (next Saturday), give food to people who need it (Sundays), work to protect the Earth in small actions (every day). Tell her that we can do more, and try to. But still live each day happily enough to give her the security and confidence to go out and do more herself to help the world. And give her the good sense to cry about an old tree leaving us too early.

Is that enough? I hope so.


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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Heather Caliri  |  September 16, 2008 at 3:58 am

    amen, sister. I felt the same way when I had them come poison the beehive in our back yard while i was pregnant. Like, “because you inconvenience me, you aren’t allowed ot live?” (for me, bees are an inconvenience. For others, a little more serious).
    But they were _right_ outside our door. I didn’t know what else to do. And no one would come remove the hive and keep it alive. (I tried).
    Sometimes I think life is supposed to implicate us, so we can’t get too judgmental and stiff and holier than thou.
    Lovely post.

  • 2. Vanessa  |  September 19, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    It was like we do every day, really, go on with our comfortable lives as wars rage and women are beaten and people starve.

    W.H. Auden said something like that in one of my favorite poems.

    I’m sorry about the tree. I was similarly upset once when our landlord had the beautiful trees in our old backyard topped — I couldn’t go outside without getting upset for a long time. The branches grew back, but then just before we left, he had them cut down, also because of the roots. Sometimes when I drive past that street, I think about how whoever lives there now has no idea that there were trees there once. They don’t know how it used to look or how shady and leafy it was on a summer afternoon. But then, everything is like that: landscapes change, and trees and buildings and even people disappear. Wherever there’s a gas station or a supermarket now, there probably used to be a tree and someone who loved it.

    Darn — I started out wanting to cheer you up and now I’m all melancholy too! šŸ˜¦

  • 3. Sugar  |  September 21, 2008 at 6:21 am

    Just saw the news. I heard the name of one of the Teachers of the Year. Sounded VERY familiar! You looked beautiful on TV giving your hubby a kiss. Congratulations to you both.

  • 4. Julie K.  |  October 9, 2008 at 2:15 am

    Your lovely post about loving a tree reminds me of a short children’s story that I wrote — similar theme, but told from a child’s perspective. If you think it might help your daughter (or you!) to cope with what has happened, drop me a line and I’ll forward it to you.

    Hugs to all of my fellow tree-huggers! šŸ™‚


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To spark conversation about redefining success (as individuals, families and institutions) and to counter "never enough" messages currently circulating in our culture.

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Megan Pincus Kajitani: Writer, Editor, Former Academic Overachiever and Career Counselor, Mom, Wife, Feminist, Gen Xer, Californian who believes that change is possible View Megan Pincus Kajitani's profile on LinkedIn

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