This past week, trees were massacred in my backyard, which now looks decimated, plucked, ruined. Massacred and decimated are strong words. But you’re supposed to be angry when trees get cut down for no good reason, right? You’re supposed to send them Reiki or something. You’re supposed to call the borough and voice your moral outrage.
The tree-cutting took place last Friday, and since the trees covered several properties, I’m guessing the tree-cutting crew was borough-hired to clear the wires that swoop from the sides of this house through and beyond the neighbors’ yards behind us.
Wires matter. Healthy wires are, I realize, essential to the modern world. But the wires and trees have peacefully co-existed here for years; in the year I’ve lived here, the electricity has never gone out for more than two seconds, and branches have never fallen.
Regardless, the men came in and cut, and chainsaws and shouts shattered the air all day. Trees and pieces of trees fell on the wires, slapping them against the side of the house; they fell on and broke the clothesline; they clattered and banged on the plastic roof over the outside stairs. By the end of the day, the yard was littered with tree scraps and 18 (yes, eighteen) fresh stumps.
It’s not my backyard. I’m just renting, and I’m moving in a month. Plus, I never sit on the back porch from which the picture was taken. But anger lies in wait for a bandwagon, even if that bandwagon is rumbling through an alternate reality. If I DID live here, if I DID sit on the back porch…!!! Plus, I can be angry on behalf of the neighbors, who have lost all privacy and shade and beauty. I can be angry on the behalf of the trees, who have lost their glad green lives.
I could hope, in this anger, that those men feel the loss of light in their lives that murderers must feel. I could picket the borough to protest the killings. I could use words like “killings.” But trees come and trees go, and the men were just doing their work, swearing and yelling and laughing and being in the sun and the fresh air of it all. What’s the point of adding anger to the world?
Instead, when I went to the hairdresser’s today, I asked her to trim the back to its usual boy-short length but keep the front a little longer. I wasn’t thinking about trees at the time, but let’s pretend I was. Let’s pretend the lesson of the trees was this: think twice about how much you value convenience over beauty. Don’t raze the landscape when you could just trim it back now and then. Because of the trees, let’s pretend, I’m growing my hair, inviting some hassle back into my life.
That’s a fake lesson, but the anger feels fake, too. I’m not that angry. Here’s the thing: I like trees very much. I even like to put my hands on them when no one’s watching and try to feel their life energy. But when I’m preoccupied, I don’t notice them. When I walk up the stairs to my apartment, rushing to get home, I barely see the backyard.
And so it comes down to this, perhaps the only truth here:
Chainsaws cut down 18 trees.
Tall and lovely trees?
I wish I could remember.