A little over five years ago I moved into the upstairs apartment in which I am currently living. One of the features I loved about this apartment is that it has two large south-facing windows; one in the living room and one in the office. While I call it an office, it is also my bedroom. I am pretty sure that I spend more time at my desk writing than I do in my small bed sleeping so I refer to the room as my office.
And my desk is situated directly in front of that aforementioned south-facing window. I simply cannot write without a window to look out of. My fantasy is to someday live in an all-glass house.
Near the street curb directly outside my office window was a large American Redbud tree. When I say ‘large’ it must be understood that American Redbuds are not large trees. They are forest-dwelling understory trees in their natural habitat. They are very slow growing and even after reaching 100 years of age they rarely get much taller than 30 feet.
But this particular American Redbud was right around 30 feet in height allowing me to look directly into it from my second story office window. I learned that the tree had been planted the first year the building was occupied over 90 years ago. It was the biggest and tallest American Redbud I had ever seen and I’ve seen thousands of them across the American South and East. They have always been one of my favorite trees of Turtle Island.
American Redbuds are famous for their spring blossoming. They put out thick clusters of blazingly brilliant magenta flowers. That first Spring in the apartment I was treated to the most incredible color display right outside my window. I was in heaven.
But it was not just the visual beauty that I luxuriated in. Birds thoroughly love American Redbud trees. They congregate and throw parties in American Redbud trees. So I wrote at my desk with the window open being inundated by a thunderous symphony of birdsong. Birdsong is not only my favorite music to listen to while writing but it is my very favorite music in the whole world. To sweeten the pot I hung a birdfeeder in that tree which I filled every morning.
I spent countless hours at my desk writing while listening to birdsong and periodically looking out the window at the magnificence of that tree and the many different birds that hung out in that tree. I was in paradise.
But it was not just from my desk that I loved that tree. Outside, I hugged that tree many, many times. I never walked past the tree without greeting it, speaking to it or touching it. I became very intimate with the tree and the tree and I became very close friends.
I’ve been hugging trees since I was a kid when I realized that trees are supremely grand, wise and beautiful sentient beings. Trees have feelings and they communicate — just not with verbal language. They also have incredible memory; even better than elephants. If you hug a tree then come back to that tree 30 years later that tree will remember you.
Maybe I’m a weirdo but, seriously, I just don’t understand how a human being can walk down a tree-lined street without even acknowledging the trees they walk past, without hearing what those trees are saying, without stopping to touch or hug any of those trees. Can’t they feel the life and intelligence and love those trees are emanating? How did humans get so drastically cut off from nature? When I take a walk in nature I can hear all the trees and when I hug one I can feel its story. They all have stories just like we humans do.
And then, around three years ago, came that awful, awful, awful day…
I was coming home from running some errands and as I turned the corner onto the block where my apartment was located I noticed a couple of work trucks parked in front of the apartment building. And I heard the godawful sound of chainsaws.
Reaching the apartment building I saw two burly men, each with a chainsaw in his hands, cutting down my dear American Redbud friend! My heart started pounding furiously and my hands began shaking. I could barely breathe.
The landlord was standing off to the side watching the two men brutally murder my friend. I went up to him and asked him what the hell he was doing.
“I’m taking out that tree.”
“Why? Why? Why?”
“Because it’s getting too big and because it’s too close to the tree next to it over there. Their branches are starting to intermingle. There needs to be space between trees.”
Apparently, my ignorant landlord had never been in a forest before.
Because it’s too close to the tree next to it? Seriously?
I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t stand there watching my dear, dear friend being brutally murdered. I turned to go inside.
The landlord called out after me, “I put your birdfeeder on the porch.”
I grabbed the birdfeeder and went inside. I climbed the stairs and entered my apartment. I could still hear the chainsaws. Putting the birdfeeder down, I went into the bathroom (on the north side of the apartment) and closed the door. I could still hear the chainsaws.
I then proceeded to cry like a baby. I cried and I cried and I cried.
Spring is very slowly starting to make an appearance here in my town. Yesterday I was on a long walk and I saw the first blooming daffodil I’ve seen so far this year. Seeing the first blooming daffodil always fills me with great joy.
And I also walked past a couple of small American Redbud trees. There are actually quite a few American Redbuds in this town, although none of them are as old and big and grand as the one I used to be able to see outside my office window. I stopped to greet those little trees and give them some love and I noticed that they are only another week or two away from blossoming.
I tried to focus on having seen a daffodil but seeing those two American Redbud trees made me think about my old friend and that made me sad.
Three years later I still miss my friend with all my heart. Now when I look out my office window I see the old dilapidated, unoccupied house across the street. It’s not pretty to look at. The tree is gone and so is the birdsong. Paradise went away.
So I got sad yesterday thinking about my old tree friend who was brutally murdered. And my thoughts veered off into thoughts of death. I am of an age in which many of the human friends and relatives I’ve known throughout my life have died. I suddenly realized that not once did I ever cry upon learning of their deaths. Not once.
But I cried like a baby when my dog died and I cried like a baby when my dear American Redbud tree friend died.
What the hell is wrong with me?
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