The pounding in my head has been almost unbearable. Sporadic, fortunately, but I shudder from its power, reaching for a way to steady myself.
Immediately following, moments of relative quiet, then the incessant buzzing—for seconds…then minutes…to an hour at a time.
Our neighborhood is in the throes of a necessary but painful clearing of old trees. My mind doesn’t doubt the validity of the decision. My gut and heart feel otherwise.
My head—reacting to the removal process—echoes my ambivalence. Two huge thuds as the trees, sliced in half for removal, hit the ground. Then the buzz saw whirring and chipping, whirring and chipping, before the workers move on to the next in line.
On a street that’s two blocks long, more than fifty trees are slated for removal.
We first visited our suburban street on a sparkling fall day many decades ago. Even before we saw our house, now nearing its centennial birthday and in which we hope to “age in place” for as long as possible, the trees had sealed the deal.
We fell in love with the trees: Gorgeous tall pin oaks on both sides of the street, each leaf pointillized by the magnificent solar paintbrush as it wafted downward.
The trees bowed toward each other and mingled their branches high above us in the center of the street. I’ve always harbored anthropomorphism toward trees; recently, I learned how many lessons they offer us. My sentiment is not misplaced.
Pin oaks are relatively short-lived in comparison to other large trees: their average life span is 120 years. It’s possible, then, that they were approaching a natural demise.
Apart from time, I wonder whether a more unstable physical environment has taken a toll on our stalwart arboreal neighbors.
The trees were planted by the township on what’s called the “hell strip”—“that forlorn strip between the sidewalk and street” where any plant life other than trees is a challenge to grow.
A few years ago, our concern that several of the big old trees on our property—so long hovering over us like a hen brooding on her chicks—were dying was confirmed by experts. We’d made the very difficult decision to remove them.
And not a year too soon. A ferocious storm more recently had toppled three of the town-planted trees—within twenty feet of each other and very close to us.
Fortunately, no one was injured, but a car across the street was totaled. Our neighbors two doors down had been out of town, their teenage son asleep in their basement, when a giant tree descended, decimating the upper floors of their home.
The fallen trees weren’t removed for quite a while. We’d walk by cavernous holes in the sidewalk and marvel at the size of the trunks and roots.
Before the trees were taken away, it was obvious that each had suffered internal decay that had made them vulnerable to the storm. Funghi or mites, perhaps, or possibly damage from repeatedly being struck by drivers who lack parallel parking skills.
And trees rely on one another, so as their numbers have dwindled over the years, their individual stability may have lessened.
It wasn’t unreasonable that the township decision-makers concluded that other trees, planted at the same time, posed a threat. Yet still I mourn.
What happens next? The township has announced it will plant saplings. Among their many attributes, trees are vital to combat climate change. I’m happy with that decision.
I shall welcome these new kids on the block and wish them long lives. I’ll close my eyes and imagine them growing large enough to grace our presence—as their predecessors did when they lured us with their beauty so many years ago.