On Having to Cut Down a Tree

One Norway Maple, cut down

Is it worth being sentimental over one tree?

The last time I mentioned to friends that we might have to cut down our two huge Norway maples, one FB friend replied “good riddance. They are invasive species to New England anyway.”

I sometimes think that our attachments to trees or cars or other “stuff” isn’t real. It’s a show we put on to let the world know we really do have feelings. That we are human.

It’s a safe place to vent our sentimentality. To let out the pulsating and ever-shifting sense of exuberance and melancholy that comes with even just the tiniest shift of the seasons.

Recently someone posted a cynical piece on Facebook about why people post the photos they do on Facebook. It’s about ATTENTION, they said. I want attention… look at me! See me THIS way, not the way I really am.

Maybe. But I am not sure there is anything wrong with seeing people the way they want to be seen. Why not see the best of people? Or at least, the vision they want to give the world of themselves? It’s fun to watch friends “show” themselves, tell their own story, about who they are, what they love, and the world they live in.

Anyway, which story about a person is the TRUE one? The one you tell? The one they tell? The one a stranger sees in a passing glance?

I did not want to cut down this tree. I do not want to cut down that other one, where the kids play on the tire swing. But two hurricanes have ripped these old maples up. They have the unfortunate fate of being a part of a human world, and not the wild one, where they would receive the grace to just fall down when the weight of time says so. And since we have chosen to spend money on this house we live in, it seems to be “worthwhile” to make sacrifices to protect it.

When you board a plane and fly low over New England — particularly taking off from White Plains airport — you really see the forest for the trees. New England is a series of fiefdoms — some bigger than others– hidden in trees, each vying for God’s attention by punching through the forest with their steeples.

A tree falls on the roadway and we stop. A tree falls on the house and we stop. A tree falls on the power line and we stop.

A tree falls in the forest, one moment self-important and brushing the sky, the next, compost.

Before they took the tree away, we tried to count the rings. Impossible. Kiki tossed the sawdust up like snow. They zoomed the Bobcat around the driveway, lifted the maple’s pieces into the trailer and drove away.

Is it worth it, loving a tree?

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Elizabeth Howard

Elizabeth writes literary non-fiction, haiku, cultural rants, and Demand Poetry in order to forward the cause of beautiful writing. She teaches and speaks about the rhetorical impact of beautiful writing. A recent transplant to Connecticut, she calls London, Kansas City, and Iowa home. 

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  3 comments for “On Having to Cut Down a Tree

  1. marty
    August 31, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Yes.

  2. cathy
    August 31, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Brilliant!!!

  3. Lisa
    September 1, 2013 at 6:41 am

    Yes, it is. I am an actual tree hugger. It saddens me when trees need to be felled for safety or because they’ve grown weak or diseased. They stand sentinel while we scurry around beneath them. It wounds me when I see people cut them down for convenience or laziness or because they lack appreciation for all that a tree stands for (pun intended). Interconnected webs. Maybe it’s a UU thing? If a tree is planted intentionally in service to man (for its wood or pulp or something where it needs to be cut down to realize) I don’t have a problem with it. But I think it’s perfectly natural to have sentimental feelings for a personally experienced tree.

    As for how we choose what we post- Why is that person even looking at Facebook if they don’t want to see how people choose to present themselves to the world? How would they instead choose the content for another person’s page, and what does that say about their opinion of a thing versus what another person personally feels about it? Kind of arrogant and judgmental. I think it’s enlightening to see how someone sees himself, especially if I never considered that aspect of them.

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