Tree trimmers showed up in our back yard today, unannounced.
After the last woodsman had rappelled down our ivy-covered maple, I went outside and noticed my beloved corkscrew hazel tree, contorted filbert or Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, was gone. “You wanted that?” the guy asked, raising an eyebrow. “I put it in the wood chipper.”
“You took it away? Without asking first?” Rage rose like wildfire to my face. “I’m an artist; I was going to use that tree. You can’t just take a preexisting item from someone’s yard and dispose of it. This is not ok!” The guy shrugged and said “Sorry” much the way my three year old says it—half-heartedly. To make matters worse, a huge branch had upended and broken the flower box in which my husband plants lovely things for me to observe from the kitchen in all seasons. “Uh, do you want me to save this?” the tree guy shrugged some more, dismantling what was left of the flower box. “It’s falling apart…”
Rage. Then grief. And tears.
I know; it’s just a dead tree. But I literally lie awake at night dreaming about what I’m going to do with it someday. I dream of elaborate sculptures, which I’ll execute when I have time, which could be never, but I’ve never admitted that to myself. That single tree has kept me inspired just looking at it, just knowing it’s there. Even when it died, holding onto its wilted brown leaves through summer, we chopped it down as a family, hand picked all the leaves from its twisty branches and I lovingly placed it by the porch steps, where I could see it from inside and outside.
Once the tree was out of the ground, it took on a whole new level of inspiration for me because then it became portable. I could prop it in our back yard, I could hang it from a high ceiling at some point in my life. I could “plant” it in some really cool see-through acrylic base. I could paint it. I could use it as a mold. I could trim off the branches and weave them together to fashion something amazing. I could’ve done so much with it and now it’s gone, just taken away and demolished.
I’m sure there’s something bigger here for me to uncover, but right now I’m flaming, raging, face-ripping mad. And feeling totally emotionally drained. Like, um, how could someone just take a whole tree out of a back yard? It was propped, standing, next to our stone fountain, like a little altar to the elements. And some clueless a-hole can’t fathom it might be there on purpose. I’m livid.
Admittedly, I have a bizarre attachment to that tree. So, I have to ask myself, what does it represent to me on a deeper level? Because I’m feeling unquestionably empty now that I know it’s sawdust.
This incident reminds me of the time I decided to collect Brian’s wire dry cleaning hangers and make sculptures with them. Using my bare hands, I spent a good two hours of exceedingly precious time (the boys were both still little babies) twisting, untwisting, wrapping and linking about 15 hangers to create the beginning of what I envisioned as a repurposed chandelier. Two days later, the cleaning ladies threw it away.
I was devastated. I’d acted on an artistic idea for the first time since my oldest son was born, pinched my fingertips wrangling the wire and was elated at the experience of my creation. And then it was literally confused for trash. The emotions on discovering the disposal of my chandelier-in-progress were very similar to my feelings about this tree being destroyed, but the tree’s absence causes an actual ache in my heart.
My dear friend, a renowned poet who’d also dreamed of things that could be done with the branches, offered assuring validation: “It kept you connected to possibility and earth and making and beauty growing out of your hands and mind and heart and spirit,” she wrote. She really got my love of this tree. “And then powerlessness, over what the world (in this case represented by those men) sees as unimportant. Discardable. Instead of crucial. Which is what that tree was. Crucial. For so many reasons.”
That tree did feel really crucial to me. I’ve always felt the tree, which the boys called “Mommy’s tree,” was some sort of gift from nature for my own artistic expression, and art in and of itself. It was so alive to me. On some level, I might’ve seen it as a reflection of my curled, messy, intricately interwoven, most beautiful-when-unobstructed-by-leafy-adornment self. Moreover, it seemed magical. And who doesn’t want to be a little bit magical?
So tonight, as I sit to meditate, I’m hoping for wisdom to be revealed. Was this a lesson in non-attachment? A carpe diem wake-up call imploring me to seize the day before an opportunity vanishes? A reminder that I cannot possess nature? A lesson in getting comfortable with powerlessness? A gentle push to stop objectifying my connection to earth and to just allow myself to experience it? Some kind of karmic debt I had to pay the man who shoved my beloved tree in the wood chipper (as in, I destroyed something valuable to him in a past life)? A simple clearing of the way for something new?
I could conjure a too-long list of possible reasons why this twirly-branched tree is no longer and I’m sure I’ll eventually come up with the true answer, but, on some level, my heart and soul must’ve been ready to say goodbye to it. Nonetheless, I admit I’m grieving.