Mourning for Trees

Last Wednesday I spent several hours crying over my neighbor’s trees.

I was fairly sanguine when they took the first tree around 8:30. I thought it was sad they were cutting it down, but I knew the branches hung over both our roofs, and suspected the roots threatened the foundations of both our houses.

But all day the chainsaws and wood chipper roared, and one by one every lovely spirit on my neighbor’s property fell, except for a single spindly holly bush in the southwest corner. The trees I loved to watch through my bedroom window, the shrubs that afforded us privacy, the cherry trees that provided shade, all cut to the ground. Their branches were shredded into woodchips, and their trunks left in segments on the grass.

I know many people don’t consider the spirits of trees equal to the spirits of people or other animals, but I do. By 3:00 p.m. I couldn’t take anymore. It was cold and windy, but I needed to get out. I took my weepy, sniffly self for a walk.

LIndens in fall 1

At the park, the lindens were as serene as ever, though half their leaves had already fallen to cover the ground in shades of yellow.

LIndens in fall 3

The douglas firs were untroubled by the noise around them, watching the world and radiating deep stillness. And the young oak tree by the soccer field provided a comfortable spot to sit, close my eyes, and breathe. I always find oak trees the most comforting trees, inviting me to lean against them and let go of my troubles. After a while I regained my composure. I listened to traffic whooshing by on Lombard street, and to the raucous conversation of crows. I listened to the wind in the leaves and pine needles.

LIndens in fall 2

My grief didn’t disappear. But later I realized these trees weren’t as upset by their death as I was. Their spirits lingered quietly for a while, but I can’t sense them anymore.

The neighbor’s property looks like a wasteland. It will be hotter in the summer. I can see into his back yard from my bedroom window. Our lives are less beautiful and comfortable now. But the spirits of the trees have accepted the change with grace. I want to be more like them someday.

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