Only Trees

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She cried and cried and said how can it be?

There used to be no roads here

Only trees –Natalia Zuckerman

 

My back patio looked like an environmental version of a CSI crime scene. Sawdust littered the porch stairs and outdoor furniture like the stuffing from some weird, wooden piñata. It stuck to the veins of plants and shouldered itself in small piles against the slats of the fence. Broken tree limbs were scattered around our fenced-in yard, their leafy crowns looking shocked in their abrupt severing.

Over the fence I saw a lone Tree Guy methodically dragging pieces of the tree over to his black pick-up truck.

“Are you taking this tree?” I asked, my eyes traveling up the tall, naked stalk of what once was a lovely maple in our neighbor’s yard. Even as the words left my mouth, I thought duhh. What did I think he was going to say? No, lady, it’s getting a make-over. How do you feel about pink leaves instead?

“Yeah,” he said. “Taking both trees actually.” I swung my gaze to the other maple resting about 5 feet from where its sister had stood.

“Both?” I stupidly parroted. I felt like Cindy Loo Who in Dr. Seuss’ Grinch story: Why, why are you taking our trees? Why? Tree Guy waved me off with mention of the neighbor’s plan to widen their driveway, build a new stone wall, make a bigger play space for the kids.

Though the trees technically, literally, totally completely were on our neighbor’s property, I still felt a sense of propriety. The trees’ thick crowns gifted both of our yards with shade in the summer and with the delicious orange and red candy tones in the fall. One side of my study faced the trees and in the autumn it felt like I was sitting in the middle of a lava lamp. Perches to birds and what looked like a complicated network of superhighways for squirrels, the trees were gentle, friendly residents as much as any of us in the neighborhood.

I ain’t gonna lie: I took it hard. There were tears (mine), profanities (mine), elaborate fantasies involving Monkey Paw-level voodoo (mine again). I went into full Lorax-I-speak-for-the-trees mode, gnashing my teeth over urban encroachment and our shameful treatment of the environment. You would have thought they had broken ground on a Native American sacred estuary to build a Walmart instead of making a few modifications to their own yard.

They’re only trees, came the gentle reminder from a few friends whose ears I had flooded with my first world whining. From a big picture perspective, they were right, which made me grumpier. Intertwined in their response was another, also gentle, reminder about change and acceptance and the inevitable impermanence of things. Cliffs wash into the ocean; entire forests disappear under bulldozers; stars explode and collapse. Stars–the stuff of gas and microscopic dust particles that seem in endless supply! Even these wink out into the ether after a few million years.

It might not be an ideal system to you, dear little control junky, was the subtext, but it’s the only one we have at the moment and even that is only on lease. They were right, again, which made me grumpier still.

By the end of the week both trees were gone, ghosts. Traces of voodoo thoughts remained. The morning after both trees had come down, I wandered into my study armed with my stubborn pensiveness, prepared to remain sour and irked. I walked in on a room usually muted at that time of day, but was now lit up in the bright morning sun.

Oh.

The space took flight, elevated by the clean, clear light coming in from the two sets of west-facing windows. One of the reasons for choosing this “room of my own” was because it received some kind of light all day, even if that light was somewhat muted from the trees.

I sat down at my desk and gazed out the window to my right where the trees once were. Now I could see a large expanse of blue sky, revealed like the widening of a camera lens, exposing an entirely new view. Massive trees several yards away were visible. Everything was transformed, but not in the way I had imagined. The word “free” sparked across my brain followed by the thought “this is actually really nice.”

Oh.

I didn’t realize the trees were keeping something out because I believed I needed what they kept in more. We can get so invested in trying to lash ourselves to what feels familiar and comforting, with what gives us a sense of orientation that we miss the invitations for growth and discovery ushered in when we allow ourselves to be uprooted.

 

 

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12 thoughts on “Only Trees

  1. I totally get you! I sometimes feel like there are things (little and big) going on around me and yes, I´m kind of a control freak, so I feel angry, powerless and sometimes I try to do something about it. Reading your post made me feel understood, I know I’m going the right way in just accepting things as they are, even if they are not ok (for me at least). Sometimes they could be trees, other times family decisions or many other world issues, the point is (I think) being aware that things like this are not ok and, like you did here, letting people know what you think and why. Maybe one day someone will read this and think carefully on cutting their own trees. I think that’s the best we can do in some situations, make peace with it, look for the bright side (there’s always one) and try to raise awareness.

    Great post! 🙂 Congrats!
    I apologise if I made any mistakes, english is not my native language.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mel! Thanks for your lovely and thoughtful reply! I really appreciate it and appreciate you reading. I am sure I will get this “let go” lesson many, many more times. And maybe it’s less about trying to fight the tide of control, and more about being open to other currents that you might wade into. What a journey and endless mystery it all is! Some days I know less about it than others 🙂 Thanks so much!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I wanted away from all the congested streets and all the fumes of new buildings surrounding me like weeds in the grass, it was NOT green anymore around me and thus suffocating in my world. I decided to move to a place where woods would surround me and now it’s been 12 years that I have been here, I find myself disappointed
    This area has more and more trees being torn down and buildings drowning the beauty I once knew.
    Makes me sad to see!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed reading this. I too, have dealt with a neighbor and his easy axe. Your story reminds me of that old tale – there are probably many versions – but it is a zen story, a teaching story. It’s about the man whose son, his only help on their meager farm, broke his leg during harvest season, and his elderly neighbors came to express their sorrow and sympathy and say how terrible it was and how hard it must be for this man to have lost his only helper. The man simply smiled and said, “We shall see…” A week later, a war broke out and all the young men of the village were sent off to battle, all except the young man with his broken leg. And neighbors again came to visit. This time it was to say how lucky the man was to have his son at home, how lucky it was that his son had broken his leg when he did because now he did not have to go to war. And the man simply smiled and said, “We shall see…”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the fantastic and important perspective. You are right..things change, we have to accept that and see the gifts that change brings..they are there! Thanks!

      Like

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