I grew up on a stretch of road that was, in my opinion, beautiful. Tall elms arched over the road, bending beneath what was a fairly constant wind or breeze. Long, trailing branches moved, sometimes gently waving, sometimes flailing helplessly in the onslaught of the fiercest winds that the seasons brought. The winter landscape was often a wonderland of hoarfrost or ice-covered trees, fencelines and grasses. I didn’t pass up an opportunity to run outside with my camera on days where we’d had an ice storm, the trees transformed into crystal sculptures and the elms newly created chandelier; a thick layer of ice coating everything in sight.
The road no longer was just a tree-lined avenue, but became a glorious tree-chandelier-covered tunnel. When the breeze blew, the branches “tinkled” and clicked. Snaps, pops and cracks were heard as the trees attempted to move in the breeze, heavily laden with their new wardrobe. Within a day or two, the aftermath of broken branches and chunks of ice lay prone on the ground. I was always very thankful for growing up on this road.
Then the drunk driver happened… This yahoo ran off the road, into one of the trees, his passenger was killed and he was injured. He sued the town for the tree being there (within the right of way) and won. The town came through and cut down every last tree “within the right of way”, excepting the trees on my parents property – because Mom said she’d claim responsibility if someone hit the trees.
A few years ago, a farmer who lives about 3 miles away bought 100+ acres of land across the way from my parents. This land had belonged to the neighbor, Norbert, and his wife Kate. Norb was a steward of the land. He gardened and had an apple orchard; he pruned all the apple trees up and down the road for miles in both directions from his house and in the forest behind his land, he collected seeds from the River Birches to propagate.
I was just a little squirt when I became acquainted with Norb, and would walk to his house to visit him often. This is also how I came to know the other neighbors who built their house tot he north of my parents place when I was about 6 or 7. Norb went down there to help Dave built his house, and I tagged along. I remember sitting on the top of the foundation wall, chattering away to the men as they worked below in the “basement”, putting in the joists for the floor. Norb taught me a lot about nature. I’d spend hours with him in the garden, walking out to the woods, in the apple orchard.
I’m sure that having me around was an exercise in patience, as one of Mom’s nicknames for me was “Motor Mouth”… and if I was even remotely similar to my niece, “Mini-Me”, I don’t know HOW Norb put up with me for so long without smothering me into silence. He didn’t have children, so it boggles my mind…. But Norb was a patient man, and I’m eternally grateful to him for being one of my teachers regarding stewardship of the land.
All of that brings me to the purpose of this entry – Norb would be heartbroken with the way the land has been treated since his passing. The township cut down all the gorgeous elms that arched over the roadway. Then, to add insult to injury, the farmer that bought up all of Norb’s land cut down EVERY LAST TREE, and plowed up every swale between fields. The orchard was gone. The tall, sturdy oaks that the hawks and owls perched in, that cast magnificent, moonlit shadows into the field that I would gaze at from my bedroom window, chopped down. The small forest of lilacs that were 75 years if they were a day, gone. The land looks desolate and barren. I felt sick the first time I saw it, and I know my Mom felt horror watching the destruction in action. I wish I had before and afters available to post – the before’s are all physical pictures and currently have scanner issues…
I live in an area surrounded by trees, state land all around me, and even some magnificent Elms sweeping their branches in the breeze. The previous owners of our home were not exactly environmentally friendly and damaged many of the trees on our property. Sadly, we are losing our stately oaks at an alarming rate, due to Oak Wilt. Thankfully, we have many other trees on the property so it won’t look completely barren if we lose them all, and we’re planting more trees with each coming year, but it saddens me nonetheless with each one we lose.
I see these large tracts of land subdivided and the trees all cut down in the name of progress, the streets all named for a species of tree. How is it progressive to cut down all the trees? The irony isn’t lost on me.