“Many of these trees were my friends. Creatures I had known from nut and acorn.” ~Treebeard, The Lord of the Rings ~J.R.R. Tolkien

A few weeks ago, I witnessed once again the felling of trees. I could have chosen not to be here to see it. But for several reasons, I was. And considering the noise and the commotion this event created, not to mention the length of time involved in getting it all done, it was almost impossible not to participate in some way through one sense or another. And if ever there was a time when I had no other choice but to decide how I would feel about some unpleasant circumstance, this was it.

As a great lover of trees, the simple act of cutting one down saddens me. Short of assigning human attributes to them, I’ve read enough to know that trees are part of a unique culture that includes the ability to communicate with each other, and yes, even with us. Trees speak merely by being. And if we pay close enough attention, there is much they can teach us.

Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from those trees during those few days is that, when life seems to be going along at a reasonable clip and with few bumps in the road, it can end at any given moment and without much warning. We’ve all read about or heard of enough human tragedies to know that this is hardly an exaggeration. So in that respect, we are a lot like trees, the only difference being in how some of our own demises come about.

And so I chose that week to practice the acceptance and the resignation I’ve learned from trees. It doesn’t matter whose hand shapes their futures…ours or Nature’s. From the moment their first true leaves poke up through the soil, their fates are not their own any more than ours are our own. And as each one of them fell, it announced its end first with a loud crack of resistance before thundering to the ground from which it will never rise again.

While the excitement and the bustle during those few days did provide some measure of distraction from the reality of what happening, in the aftermath, as the wood dust settled and the next day dawned, it became painfully clear as to just how extensively this small piece of earth had been violated. Despite the promises of better things to come in the form of updated landscaping and new more manageable trees, it wasn’t easy at first to see that silver lining.

And I consoled myself with the fact that, now that all those old and venerable pines were gone, I would be able to see sunrises and full moons more fully. Still, that thought has yet to prove comforting to me as I wander around here looking down upon what’s left and counting rings that speak of longevity and tenaciousness. Some of those stumps bear witness to lives that spanned 60 years or more, and it is with great effort that I am forcing myself to look across this denuded place now and acknowledging my role as powerless onlooker.

Before this place was built some 30 years ago, I’m told the woods that now encroach behind these buildings once went right up to the street. That accounts for why so much of the wildlife still haunts this place…the wild turkeys and foxes, the hawks and ducks and raccoons and opossums that still seem to lay claim to the land itself, albeit its paucity of trees. The hundred-some pines that were taken during that week were all that was left of that woodland edge. So once again, the wild things that know this place as home will scramble to adjust. But adjust they will, as is Nature’s way, giving me one more reason to be hopeful that this current desolation will not be the final chapter of this story.

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