Thursday, February 02, 2006

A Space Left Behind

The tree on the corner of our property died last summer, after languishing about for a couple of years. When we first moved here, I thought I could save it, but the damage done to the roots during a previous excavation proved too extensive. And last spring, the tree showed brown needles, and then, so suddenly, it turned completely reddish brown. It never lost its needles; giving me a forlorn hope that it would suddenly turn green again, but it was not to be.

It seems the older trees surrounding our property are becoming fewer and fewer. Two years ago, the fully treed lot next door was sold. It had large conifers growing at the front of the lot; and the rest of it had willows, red twig dogwood, an old apple tree, holly and various fir trees scattered here and there. It had a whole system of wildlife; birds nested in the trees, squirrels chattered away, and there were the night raiders...owls and raccoons. Known far and wide for the huge blackberries that grew there, it was a pickers' haven.

But the new owner cleared the entire lot, leaving bare scarred earth. I sat and watched from my perch on the back porch. They came... the excavators and the big trucks. The manmade machines seemed incongruous in the wild of the wooded lot. Bold orange and loud, they proclaimed dominance. Birds fled. The neighbourhood itself seemed cowed by these monsters.

Clanging, ripping and tearing, the excavator's claw grabbed bunches of brush with a grin firmly planted in its maw. It looked exactly as I imagine a one-armed lobster, his claw waving and snapping about, as he searches for victims.

Firs, willows, dogwoods and the old sentinel...the apple tree...were all fodder for the excavator and the power saws. At one point, it seemed the Lobster was picking his way almost tenderly, leaving trees edging the property. I was filled with hope. At the end of this workday, the chirping of the birds seemed more distant; they deserted us for a week or two.

I picked up some fallen apples laying on the ground...the apple tree was no longer standing. I touched the roots of its stump that lay on a pile of brush, and sent Reiki to the departed souls of the trees. It felt as if the pile of rubble, the trees that were left, and the bare earth were holding their breath, waiting for the next onslaught. I felt their sadness, heard the hushed, murmuring whispers.

But the next morning, shrieking saws felled the trees. It was early in the morning, and the resulting crack of falling trees woke up the neighbourhood. Pain ripped into my soul. And I watched as the Lobster began his work once more. I watched as the trees took on arms that clutched at one another...I heard the moans.

I saw the giant claw impatiently shrugging a tree out of its way, not caring about the soul rending shriek given off by the tree. Then he tore away the blackberry bushes hanging over our fence. The willow that gave us backyard privacy went quickly. How strange and sad I never recognized what a good job it was doing, until it was gone.

Brown earth, twigs and branches and logs dot the former woodlot next door. Backyards and sideyards for four or five houses are laid open to view. Last summer, grasses took over the lot...grasses as tall as our six foot fence. The blackberries that hung over our fence came back, although not as lushly and I'm thankful for that. But, with the exception of the grasses, the land lies waiting, neglected and sad.

This was the first time I was able to visualize the trees, as they were cut down, as beings. It made a huge impression on me. I have never liked to watch trees being cut, especially healthy trees, and here is the reason why. Even if I had never been able to 'see' the pain before, I definitely felt it.

So I was concerned when Andy, the tree specialist, from Hi-Rigger Tree Services, came to take down our dead tree. I watched to see if there was anything left of the tree's soul. But it had fled. All I felt was a sense of relief coming from the area. The tree's last earthly incarnation was gone, and there was a new beginning in store.

A new tree will use the old stump as a nurse log, one that will break down over time and feed the youngster's roots. And the circle continues...

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