Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Acer sacharum, Rest in Peace

Did the one-mile walk with dogs yesterday for the first time in a few days, and looked in on on my plant acquaintances.  

The red maple down the block and round the corner has now shed most of her children, though--since she lives in a narrow strip of turf between street and sidewalk--nearly all will inevitably come to a bad end.  Even so, I expect she will probably get a few surviving offspring over her lifetime--and that's enough (on average) to keep the red maple population stable. 

The red oak on Chatham is doing fine; his male catkins are long since fallen, and, from the ground, I can't see his female flowers nor any beginning of acorns.  For awhile I thought he might be a black oak rather than a red, but I'm still inclined to think I got the ID right the first time.

The sugar maple on the corner of Nancy Lane that I've been following since last fall is--gone.  I stand in sunlight where sunlight shouldn't be, and look at a low, modest mound of wood chips on an otherwise blank stretch of suburban lawn.  Trees do get old, and sometimes endanger homes, but this tree seemed hale and hearty to me.  And even when a tree this old must come down, it should be an event, a drama.  My first thought, after the shock, was that someone should have posted a notice, a sentence of condemnation, preferably at least a month before sentence was to be carried out.  

On the day itself, neighbors should have gathered, somberly dressed and reminiscing in quiet voices.  There should be an earth-shaking crash, the earth gashed by the tons of falling trunk and the scattering of shattered limbs.  The aftermath--as in any execution--would inevitably be brutal, tears falling as whining chainsaws rip into living flesh, smell of tree's blood heavy on the air.  Trucks would come to carry away the logs (hopefully to end on a cheerful hearth rather than buried in a landfill).  Neighbors would disperse, lost in thought.  The evidence of what has happened should be everywhere, signs of disaster, wilted leaves betokening death.  

Instead, this blank lawn and its wood chips are as if the half-century-old tree had never been at all.  

It is obscene. 

I can only wonder whether the homeowner's decision was the occasion of prolonged struggle and anguish, or only a matter of engineering, of dollars and cents.

In his journal on October 7, 1857, Thoreau wrote:

It is monstrous when one cares but little about trees but much about Corinthian columns, and yet this is exceedingly common.

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