Wednesday, January 14, 2009

If a Tree Falls . . .

I first decided that growing up might have some compensations when my mother told me that even grown-up books sometimes have talking trees in them. (She was reading Lord of the Rings at the time. I guess that might go without saying.)

I think I'm still waiting for the other compensations, but I actually wasn't really planning to discuss the relative benefits of maturity. I wanted to talk about trees. And Lord of the Rings, I guess. I think it's interesting that in the worlds of both Tolkien and Lewis, you can tell things are really dire when the trees either shut down or are cut down. The worlds of The Two Towers, Prince Caspian and The Last Battle, for example, are highly informed by the state of the trees.

So I've got to say that the ominous feeling surrounding the devastated economy, the renewed violence in Israel and the more personal concerns of cancer and such, is kind of getting highlighted for me over here because of what is happening to our trees.

Last month trees all across our county were ripped to shreds by the wind and ice which ravaged the area. One entire dread-filled night I spent listening to trees shuddering, groaning, cracking like gunshot, falling with loud, earthshaking thuds . . . and I felt as if I could, in all that, hear them screaming. Much as I feared a tree might any minute fall through my roof, I also found myself grieving, grieving the trees.

If that were all, it would be a sadness. Trees which had been perfectly healthy, if they haven't fallen down completely, will have to be taken down because they've suffered too much damage to survive. In addition, however, there is an even more serious menace. The Asian Longhorned Beetle, which the USDA has fought to eradicate in Chicago, New York, and New Jersey, was discovered in our City last summer.

The beetles have been present in this area for over ten years it turns out, and the passionate and hardworking folks at APHIS are a little freaked out, because this is the first occurrence of this tree-destroying pest in an area with such close access to full-fledged forest. In an attempt to keep the beetle from destroying an entire ecosystem up here, they have begun a massive programme to cut down and chip to nothing . . . pretty much all the trees in the City, and many beyond. If the beetle only infested one kind of tree, that would be one thing, but "this one goes to eleven"--there are at least eleven tree species they seem happy to call home. The oaks, apparently, are safe, and I suppose the pines, but the maples' and the chestnuts' and the birches' days are numbered. Trucks have been on New Church's street yesterday and today, and for about half an hour this morning a herd of "tree-care" workers hung out and laughed and talked at Starbucks.

If things go well, replanting will begin in a few years. But no one in the City will see a mature maple tree on their property again. If these trees don't come down, many more will, eventually. But it already feels suspiciously like a losing battle, and we've only just started to fight it. It feels like a harbinger of something, and makes me wonder again, "What is this world coming to?"


Annelise said...

That's really sad!

Melissa Hackett said...

Reminds me of the song "Big Yellow Taxi". :(

Jenn said...


Melissa--me, too, kind of, except in the song it's more personal selfishness that made the trees come down, and in this case it's sort of harder to avoid . . . Either way, though, it's a big bummer.

revjas said...

Oh, Jenn! This post is SO poignant and ... powerful! It actually made me cry -- for the trees and for the violence, sickness and brokenness of our world. Exquisite pain and loss, exquisitely described.

jasdye said...

all this beautiful, heart-wrenching and metaphoric talk of trees, along with the profile pic... i'm sure a visitor to your site will think that your book is a coffee-table book full of wonderful pictures of surviving and thriving trees.

and that you'll get a lot of arborphiles.

Go jennwith2ns: #1 google spot for trees!