They cut down the trees on our median a few weeks ago. Not just trimmed them, I mean they cut them all the way down;
the tree trimmers returned with a chipper and and chewed up the stumps. The first few days after this the "tree butchery", I felt a palpable sadness, like a weight sitting on my chest. The street was eerily bright, no longer filtered through many branches. Before school one day, Tacy knew they would be cutting the trees, and she ran out to the Russian olive tree and gave it a hug and kiss. After school a few days later Joscelin ran up and down the street with our Chihuahua, kissing each stump.
|Desolation: post-tree removal on Northeast Main Street|
Why the five-block stretch of clear cutting? Turns out the neighborhood group decided that the sprinkler system was out-dated and the soil poor and not absorbing water. They wanted to start over by ripping out the sprinkler system, replacing the soil, making the median concave, and planting native plants and different trees. Granted, most were ash trees that would have been cut anyway, thanks to the Emerald Ash-Borer infestation. But a few were saplings that had just been planted last year. And why did they have to cut the majestic Russian olive in front of our house? I had climbed that tree as a 10-year-old — all of my kids have climbed it — and it was strong and healthy.
I felt like the "Lorax" speaking for the trees when I phoned Mr. Michael Rainville, a long-time neighborhood group committee member. "Couldn't that one Russian olive be spared, at least?" I pleaded. Rainville explained that the plan had been years in the making already, and it was impossible to change at this point. Soil replacement, rain garden construction and sprinkler removal were involved, so it was just easier to take all the trees out and start over.
When my mom, Gerry Bruins (83), learned of the tree cutting plan, her countenance visibly saddened and she remarked, "Who would approve of such a plan?" She mourns the loss of sheltering shade and the trees' cooling effects. As frail as she is, it is doubtful she will witness the growth of the new trees beyond their sapling stage.
Falling leaves, felled trees, garden tools stored in the garage, tomatoes harvested...and Mom is growing old. Like trees, we have no control over when death swings its scythe our way. One minute we are sharing our moments and talents with others, the other we are hacked down and ground up into wood chips. Throughout the past 22 years of my married life, it has been a blessing for me and David to live with my mom. At first, the decision to move out of our hip Uptown apartment and into her 1890s duplex was due to financial concerns; now Mom truly needs someone to look after the house and yard, give her rides to appointments and the grocery store, and help keep her finances in order.
I never thought my
Mom would become frail. She was such a dynamo, always doing favors for others and generous to a fault. In addition to holding down a full-time job with the city, she raised me as a single parent from the time I was 10, helped care for her own mother on weekends by painting and wallpapering the house, helping with grocery shopping, gardening and more.
How do you come to terms with the things you love winding down, wearing out and being cut down? I think the answer lies in making peace with our humanity, and being okay with doing "enough." It requires self-reflection and an arbitrary decision as to what "enough" will be. Prioritizing our energies into the most important work is another factor. Easier said than done! Believe me, I have fought against it long and hard. Not so long ago I was still pulling all-nighters in my attempt to be a top-notch mother and
successful business owner! And man, did I pay a price. My damaged feet are now unable to wear anything except well-padded athletic shoes or frumpy cork-soled shoes. Next weekend I hurtle towards Year 51 on this planet, and I believe accepting yourself for being human and finite is our challenge as well as our salvation.