Buzz Saw Ambivalence

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

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.


12 thoughts on “Buzz Saw Ambivalence

  1. Time moves on and nature has its limits. We have tested those limits in our spreading out into the areas that once were only inhabited by peoples 1,000’s of years ago and who foraged and hunted to only exist. Modern, post columbian inhabitants, did what they always did throughout Europe, they tamed all in their path. Trees in NYC buildings from the mid 19th century were built from those pre-Columbian forests. Some lumber has been found to be 500 years old once a building has been taken from the urban landscape to be replaced by glass, steel and concrete. Do not get me wrong. I do not mourn for any of this as it was long before my time and there are still areas in our country were you can stand within the giants that grow protected from the hands of man. I live in NYC. Right smack in there. Trees are not a rarity but nor are they in abundance on the avenues and side streets. How they pull water and nourishment from tree pits far smaller than a studio apartments coat closet is an amazement. But they do. Those that are within walking distance from me in Central and Riverside parks are rich in their abundance to water, open air and minimal pollutants. All in all, trees in NYC are severely challenged and more or less given to be taken for granted. We do our best but it is never good enough. Like the store fronts that have gone empty, we only notice the trees once they have been removed or replaced. Life has a time limit and no amount of custodial care nor interference will change much. Trees are our friends. We breath their air and there are those creatures that occupy or depend on their presence and good health. But, I opened with, time moves on and nature has its limits. I hope your new friends and those that will occupy their branches and nest, feed on the spring buds and pollinate its flowers will be a new experience and joy for you as you stated, age in place, of the place you were drawn to all those years ago.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Charles. I, too, am struck by how the trees survive for so many years—confined as they are, in so many instances, in those aptly named hell strips. And I heartily concur: trees are our friends for an abundance of reasons.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, DtD! I liked that image but wondered if I had overwritten. But even though it was so long ago, the picture of our initial drive down our street remains incredibly vivid. Wearing my editor hat, I gave my writer self permission to indulge.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The Domaine’s Arboretum is carefully managed but even so we still have an annual Chainsaw Masacre which is somewhat noisy, along with the pruning of our olive orchard. It’s not so much the sawing but the turning of the branches into sawdust/wood chips afterwards that’s so disruptive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Chainsaw Massacre seems apt—especially now that we’ve looked at the sorry stumps and seen no evidence of decay in any of them. Our lovely tree-lined street has lost its character—and we wonder if the decision-makers had bothered to consult experts about the necessity for this obliteration.

      Liked by 1 person

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