It took losing a tree, in my case two in my local area in a short space of time to bring to my awareness how special they were to me.
The first was a tree at the bottom of my road which I had befriended over the years or perhaps it had befriended me! I think this relationship formed because it is the first tree in my street as I turn into it on the homeward stretch from shopping in town or on my bike returning from work.
So then I relax a bit more and pay more attention to my surrounds. I look up at my tree and see its beautiful shape and green of leaves casting shade on the pavement and in winter time I observe carefully the lattice of branches and the clear cold winter blue or waning soft pink light through them.
I take a special moment to be consciously aware of this tree and even to inwardly say: ‘hello, dear tree’.
One day, coming out of the Simeon recreation ground with my daughter, I saw straight ahead of me a truck belonging to tree surgeons. A man with a chainsaw was walking around the forecourt of the block of flats where the tree grows asking some advice from a resident.
Alarm bells rang and I went straight up to Mr Woodcutter and asked him which tree he and his fellow surgeon intended to cut down. He pointed straight at my dear tree. My heart fell. ‘But why?’ I asked. He told me its roots were pushing down a pillar that had become dangerous as result. I suggested that the pillar rather than the tree could come down. But Mr Woodcutter’s instructions were to cut down the tree. Permission had already given by the council. It was not a protected tree he said, only an ash. I had not even known it was an ash when I admired it. It had not needed a proper name to be dear to me.
I pleaded ….. ‘but I say hello to that tree whenever I pass…. that tree is special to me.’ I was just wondering whether I should leap up and hug it when my daughter said, ‘come on mum’ ….. and led me away.
Once home I could hear the saws revving up and then getting to work on the upper branches. The branch mulcher was turned on and rumbling and crunching and cracking sounds roared up to our flat. I couldn’t just sit at home and listen to my dear tree being sawn and mulched and decimated.
So I set out with a heavy heart. It was a beautiful sunny day and I walked and walked in awareness of my feelings. This is how grief from loss feels. It really was such a tangible heavy feeling in my heart and chest – a dread feeling. As I walked I truly felt the symptoms of sorrow. I thought about how this was a preparation for future griefs….. to know how it feels. I felt immense compassion for those who had lost loved ones and felt grief of such immeasurably vaster proportions than mine.
Words of remembrance were forming in my head so that by the time I got to Puckpool I felt compelled to write them down. I sat on a bench on a raised patch of lawn overlooking the trees of the former holiday camp and looked for a piece of paper in my wallet.
There was the perfect card.
I turned it over and wrote these words on the back:
Goodbye, dear tree
I am so sorry to lose you
You were my mindfulness bell
I was glad to have you there
to say hello to each day
You reached out to me and
helped me awaken
Your dear spirit will continue,
From a near neighbour
As I sat there looking at all the beautiful trees around me I could see clearly that my tree had become dear to me because I had cast my awareness upon it and it become known to me. Just as our loved ones are held in our awareness and are unique, special and dear to us. And that with this understanding we can then expand our awareness to embrace trees and persons far beyond those we personally encounter.
When I returned home I already felt more prepared to accept the loss. Later I wrote out the words I had written in the park and put them on the remaining trunk along with a paper rose I had made earlier.
To date the cracked ‘dangerous’ pillar remains. Housing Association ‘Places for People’ who sent the tree cutters from Lancashire have said they will plant another beautiful tree in its place. I do hope so but don’t know how long I will have to wait until I can say ‘hello dear tree’ again as I approach the homeward straight.
And then just about a week later I was coming down the road from the other direction when I saw that a beautiful cherry tree I had so frequently admired, on the forecourt of a large house, had been cut back to a trunk with stumps. It had been brutally amputated. What was once a most joyous and profusely blossoming cherry tree was now hacked in pieces. All around its base were the branches piled up with the rings of its growth laid bare. This time I heard it was cut so that its petals did not spoil the roof of a car parked there.
Another note, another rose, another missing friend.
will be sadly missed this spring
Your strong vibrant and spreading branches no more
So sorry, dear tree
from an admirer