We had a Palo Verde tree in our back yard that was crowding out a mesquite tree.
I had always thought of the Mesquite tree as being the “prettier” tree, if a person can dare to think of one tree as being “prettier” than another, and therefore decided I wanted the Palo Verde tree taken out.
When he was a young man my husband had been a wood cutter in the forests of Canada, and so I asked him if he would do it, if he would cut the tree down for me. He said he would but reminded me that although he’d been cutting all the wood for our fireplace any time we needed it, he mostly had been culling dead wood from the trees in our neighborhood. He hadn’t taken down a live tree for over 20 years.
Well, he did take the Palo Verde tree down. And after it fell, he put down his saw, came into the house, sat on the sofa and put his hands over his face.
He was stricken.
“Don’t ever ask me to do anything like that again,” he said. His voice choking. “I can’t do it anymore. I don’t feel like I just ‘cut down a tree.’ I feel like I killed something.”
My husband’s grief-stricken words awakened me.
They grace us with the solidity of their trunks and the fluidity of their branches. They keep us warm by shedding their leaves and keep us cool by sharing them. They gracefully remind us of the cycles of our own lives and whisper to us of the cycles to come. They stretch their arms out and hold us in their embrace. They block out the things we don’t want to see and become for us visions of beauty.
They silently witness our comings and goings and don’t ever think that one of us is “prettier” than the other.
Surely, just as my husband experienced that day when he was grieving over the Palo Verde, trees are living beings with lives to live and, in their own way, stories to tell—probably our own stories if we just understood their language.
Surely, they are our friends.
Perhaps they are the best friends we could ever find.
Perhaps no one, anywhere, should ever take down a tree again.
Perhaps, if we did and we paid attention, we too would have to sit on the sofa and cry.
“Trees have about them something beautiful and attractive even to the fancy,
since they cannot change their places,
are witnesses of all the changes that take place around them;
and as some reach a great age, they become, as it were, historical monuments,
and like ourselves they have a life, growing and passing away,
—not being inanimate and unvarying like the fields and rivers.
One sees them passing through various stages,
and at last step by step approaching death,
which makes them look still more like ourselves.” ~ Wilhelm von Humboldt
Author: Carmelene Siani
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Ms. Phoenix at Flickr