Once There Were Trees

They cut down the maple trees in the school behind my house today.

Every single one of them.

They are building a school hall which is nice for the kids and all that but I shudder to think of all the little animal homes that have disappeared with the loss of over ten well-established trees.

My neighbour, Dot, who is a painter and has lived in the street for fifty years says the maples were there when she moved in. She thinks they might have been a hundred years old. We both shed a tear at that, holding each other as if the world is moving too quickly and we are in danger of falling off.

Neither of us can speak when we see the birds flying overhead thinking they have gone off course when they can’t see the trees they are used to. It is hard to find a tree that feels like home, Dot says.

I have a feeling she is right.

Dot will miss the crunch of the leaves underfoot and gathering up armfuls of them to try and match the colours in her paintings.  I will miss the shadows, curlicues and whirls on the back fence in the evening light.

We will both miss the birds frolicking in the branches. The fruit bats scolding one another. The possums leaping.

When summer comes I am sure we will long for the shade cast on the ground cool as a forest. We will miss the little pointed berries. The smell of the seeds underfoot like a strange kind of cinnamon.

That’s progress for you, Dot says, putting her sketch pad away.

I try to remember the golden light that fell every afternoon. But it is gone. All that remains is the blue sky, unceasing and wide.

I walk inside and close the back door. The night is enormous in its silence.

22 thoughts on “Once There Were Trees

  1. In this country, if a tree is under threat, we can apply for a tree protection order. You don’t have to own the tree to do this.

    If it’s granted, it can only be chopped down if it’s diseased or dangerous. In this way, we saved the ‘Tree of Light’, and the little tree on Flower Lane.

    (Unfortunately, they didn’t save the magnificent horse chestnut trees on Crag Brow, Bowness on Windermere. I believe the Chestnut Tree Café is thinking of changing its name to Where the Chestnut Tree Used to Be Café)


  2. You brought to life the scents of trees and nature, the feeling of being cooled by trees and the sadness most people feel when trees are cut down
    I live in a community with protected maples and pines. Actually this post gave me an idea for a post of my own. Thanks.
    And thanks for stopping by my blog. I hope we get to know each other as I’m enjoying your blog too!


  3. I feel your loss Sel. Some would say: “it’s only trees” it is so much more than that. We had a gorgeous maple tree in the yard where we currently live (rent). The owner had an “arborist” (I doubt that) HACK it into a real mess, this past summer, it was shocking to look at after. I actually cried.

    On the plus side, sounds like you have a wonderful neighbour in Dot. Hugs to both of you.


  4. It seems very wrong to cut down trees especially in dry places like Australia and Botswana. There is a traffic circle in Gaborone that had a small grove of beautiful huge trees in the middle. The shade attracted people during their lunch hour. They didn’t block traffic. They were just there being lovely. One day they chopped them down. I was in Gaborone the other day and that circle was dry with patches of old grass, a few thrown papers blowing in the wind, as ugly as ugly can be, and more so again because of what is gone.


    I don’t think those laws apply here which is a shame. I feel quite sad about the maples – they really were magnificent. Everything is so bare now *sigh*

    Hi RACHEL:
    It really is a shame. I love having lots of trees around. I find it quite soothing. I’ll miss them…

    Hi MELEAH:
    It really does stink. I don’t know why they had to chop all of them down.

    Hi PIA:
    Well, I will look forward to your post and to getting to know you. It makes me feel good to know that in some parts of the world maples are protected.

    Some of those so-called arborists really don’t know what they’re doing. They really just hack away at random. Dot is very cool. She wears T-shirts that say ‘Ban The Bomb.’ I love her attitude.

    Hi LAURI:
    Oh, definitely. We need all the trees we can get. It is so dry here right now. I am fearful for how awful it’s going to be during summer. That is such a shame about your grove of trees. So unnecessary.

    Thanks for the hug. It is sad. I really miss those trees…

    I really do mourn them too. Not only are they beautiful to look at – we need them. It is so short-sighted to cut them down.

    Hi DAOINE:
    Such a waste. 😦


  6. a terrible loss selma, my sympathies, i have seen it happen, an entire grove behind this lot, oaks, poplars, pines, all cut down to build a house. now, it was a terrible shock when that happened and i realized how little sympathy was left over for the new neighbors when they moved in. their housebuilding on that spot is what in fact drew the feral cats, skunks and raccoons forward into my lot and the other two beside me, which led to the establishment of the animal shelter in this neighborhood. however i still miss the wooded piece of land and everything else, and even tho the couple who moved in are very nice people, and didnt have a clue about how the animals depended on that piece of land, and didnt know any of the neighbors would care, i still shudder every time i see the third story of that house peeking over the tallest tree at the back of our lot.


  7. Sorry to hear about that. Recent storms have knocked down some old oaks on our block–different circumstances from your situation, but same sense of loss.


  8. I think that I shall never see
    a billboard lovely as a tree.
    Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
    I’ll never see a tree at all.
    Ogden Nash

    Joni Mitchell Big Yellow Taxi

    Chief Seattle’s speech

    The Last Flower by James Thurber



  9. Hi Selma,
    What a shame they had to do this, I’m sure the tree also provided some welcome shade for the kids as well, theres nothing nicer than sitting under a tree with a nice breeze blowing. I hope the building is worth it after having to get rid of the trees.


  10. Hi TIPOTA:
    It’s hard to find the balance between development and deforestation, isn’t it? It can be done, though. A friend of mine who lives in the country has built an entire house complete with outbuildings around the trees that were already there. The buildings have an unorthodox design as a result but there is a pleasing kind of symmetry to them too. Many architects didn’t want to take on the job, but my friend, probably the biggest treehugger I know, wouldn’t back down. He is one of my personal heroes. I am so sorry you lost the view of the beautiful trees.

    No to mention the corporate slaves they are churning out. It’s called the Yuppie School for a reason. But that is a topic for another day….. They’ve got some bad karma coming their way, for sure. Sneaky so and sos.

    It is always sad to lose a tree, especially an oak. They really are glorious. I am sorry you lost yours.

    Oh me too. There are definitely spirits contained within. What a beautiful way you have described them. I love that!

    Oh, right on. It is such a shame when people can’t see that. It is sad.

    Hi MAGS:
    I hope it’s worth it too. I already miss the shade. My garden will be blazingly hot in summer now. Yikes!


  11. This may sound strange, but I actually kind of “ran away” after reading this. The wanton destruction of living things is a bit of a hot button for me. Maybe it’s because my sacred tree is sick and may be dying. To read that someone cut down some beautiful, life-giving trees breaks my heart. I can’t think of too many good reasons to do such a thing. Has anyone offered an explanation? Oh, wait, isn’t this the same school that poisoned the birds? I’m beginning to see a pattern emerge…

    I’m so sorry for your loss.


  12. Awful indeed. More and more, it warms my heart to see people taking steps to preserve the trees (including them in building permits and whatnot.)


  13. Hi DAVID:
    The links sent you into the pending folder. I don’t know why it keeps doing that because I have left an approval for all your comments. Sorry about that. Wonderful links, as usual. I would rather see a tree than a billboard anyday. AMEN.

    Hi STEVEN:
    It was a sad moment. So nice to hear from you.

    Hi KAREN:
    I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes I can’t help but to shy away from things like this too. It almost physically hurts me to think about it. It is the same school that poisoned the birds. I think they’ve got a whole community apocalypse plan going. Next it’s a plague of something being released, I’m sure of it.

    I am so sorry about your sick tree. I hope she recovers ♥

    Hi NAT:
    I love that. It’s so important. There is so much research supporting how good green spaces are for us. It’s to our detriment to deny it. Plant a tree for mental health, I say 😀


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