A nice man… jovial, friendly… he even made the inevitable joke about my lack of inches. His dog likes him… You get the impression he is the kind of guy who would help anyone. He’s still a murderer though. His victims are given no warning. They cannot run. Mute, they do not scream until the blade bites deep.
Perhaps I should think of him as a mercenary… paid to butcher on behalf of others. Does that make it any better? Somehow, I think it makes it worse. He makes no moral choices about the carnage. Those are left up to others. He’s just earning a living. He simply does the job, taking out the inconvenient, the ailing and the antisocial.
I can understand the cull of the sick, the ones whose lives endanger others. There are times when sentiment must be overridden… though I am not sure a totalitarian approach is always the best way. As I watched him lay out his weapons, I could not help but think of an old friend, ‘eliminated’ for just this reason, or of the confusion of those rendered homeless in the wake of the destruction. There is a finality about a chain saw.
There wasn’t much warning. No way to prepare the victim for the inevitable, barely time to lay hands in thanks and blessing upon its bark before the destruction of the sycamore commenced. Tomorrow, the lovely old ash will go, both sentenced to death for being allowed to grow where their presence steals the light and where their roots intrude upon our structures.
I have watched woodpeckers and jays in that tree. Watched the moon rise and the sun’s face darken through those branches. Doves have courted there and squirrels played…. and now, instead of reaching star-decked limbs to the sky, the tree rests in neatly sectioned piles. With a last breath of beauty, it seems to reach out with a final embrace to the periwinkles as it reluctantly crushes the bank of violets that played around its roots.
Now there is only a void… a sense of naked loss written blankly against the sky. The birds perch forlornly on the fence where their tree should be… or find new perches on the metal branches that evidence our collective preference for entertainment.
It is just one tree… one today, one tomorrow. Not much in the grand scheme… very little compared to the wholesale slaughter of forests across the globe. But I know this tree. I know the creatures who call it home. The birds that roost in its bole come trusting into the garden, unafraid of those who feed them.
Where do we place the blame? You can’t really blame the person whose property is being damaged by the roots. Nor the tree surgeon who wields the blade on demand. On some idiot who once thought a flower-bed a foot wide the right place to plant a sycamore tree? But perhaps it self-seeded and grew anyway. Perhaps there is no answer… or maybe it goes deeper than that and has its roots in our view of the world and the creatures and lives with whom we share this planet.