When my wife announced that she was having the large paper birch tree in our front yard removed I had a case of apoplexy. It’s a beautiful tree and provides the front of my home with the only shade from the sun and the direction from which most inclement weather comes. It’s a wonderful tree and yet it suffers from some kind of beetle that bores through its innards, killing it.
I’m furious that the tree is being removed, but even more angered that the arrangements were made with no council from me. The tree still has life in it. It’s not like it’s a rotted mass threatening to fall, chances are better than good it would outlive me given my tenuous hold on life.
I ran out and took a few photos of the tree to have some record of it. In the eyes of my wife and the tree company removing it, the tree hasn’t the emotional nor practical meaning that it does for me. As it is, I resent the cutting of most trees within the urban/suburban sprawl. Spokane is inundated with spiders to the point it’s a nightly news subject that crops up a few times a year. There are so many spiders because so many trees have been felled that it has driven the birds away. With the birds gone, the spiders have no real predator to keep them in control. It has also driven populations of yellow jackets to make their homes within the eaves of houses and other buildings, again because their preferred nesting spots have been eradicated.
A decade ago Spokane suffered an ice storm. The weight of the ice ripped tons of branches from trees and bent and broke many of the supporting trunks as well. Simultaneously to that, the worth of timber has increased radically. These two things have started a wholesale slaughter of trees in the area as people respond to needless paranoia and the mental ka-ching of the cranial cash registers in their heads. Spokane has moved from a lush green habitat of lilacs and evergreens to a bald spot as attractive as the bloated white belly of the morbidly obese. I cannot express the resentment I feel about the situation of trees in general, never mind the assassination of the most beautiful tree on my property. But a contract was signed and there is nothing I can do about this, save pay for the removal of the tree only to have to pay it again some years down the road when it really is time to say goodbye to the tree.
Perhaps it especially bothers me since I have a DNR order in place. A do not resuscitate command that says should I reach a point of deterioration that no heroic actions be taken on my behalf. Just let me go. I look out at the tree and wonder if it was really ready to go. Perhaps not. Perhaps my wife and the tree remover jumped the gun here. Will I have a couple of good years in me but will miss out on them because family and doctors just ‘want to get it over with?’ Will they be worrying about ‘making me needlessly suffer?’ I think I’d better make sure of the verbiage in my DNR and make sure it contains a clause that requires that I agree that it’s time to go. Or at least have three doctors and a random person from the cafeteria agree that I won’t wake up to a painful body that’s betraying me.
It’s surprising to me that I could have such an attachment to a tree. But I do. I think about the generations it’s seen. It was here before the house was; it stood guard and watched the house constructed, save the sewer lines replace the old septic tank, and has been tickled thousands of times by scissors and then string trimmers as grass was trimmed away from its base. It has stood guard faithfully, shading the house from the sun and defeating the winds and rain that tried to impact it. Never did it ask for anything in return, although I made sure it was watered deeply and sprayed for pests -at least since it came under my charge. I suppose I was too late for those beetles.
So as I have written this, the sounds of chainsaws and brush shredders have dwindled to silence and I know that the next time I step out the front door my mind will say ‘something is wrong with this picture.’ I will look at the space that used to be occupied by my beautiful birch and feel a touch of sadness. A little grayness will follow me each time I pass the spot where the tree stood its faithful post.