I was the one who nearly wept the day the tree came down. Every morning when I looked out my bedroom window as a kid, the magnificent weeping willow was there to greet me. Rain or shine – winter, spring, summer or fall – there it was, rising majestically skyward like a gentle giant just behind the fence that separated our yard from our neighbour’s.
Its supple, whip-like branches arched upward then floated down making it look like a mammoth umbrella. The leaves were a silvery green that danced like tiny ballerinas when the wind rustled through them. Then one morning, I heard the grind and whir of a saw. I looked out my window to see sections of the tree being crudely lopped off bit by bit. The sound amplified in my ears and I imagined it was the tree screaming in pain. “Why are you doing this to me?”
“The roots are damaging the foundation of the house so they are taking it down,” my mother explained. I was outraged. The house had been built way too close to the tree, which had been there well before!
It didn’t occur to me then that hundreds of trees had probably been cleared to make way for the development we lived in. It was a neighbourhood of modest, cookie-cutter bungalows with pristine lawns. Each front lot was adorned with a single maple tree planted by the city. Most back yards were devoid of any trees at all. I don’t even know how the weeping willow survived in the first place.
Now I live in what used to be a semi-rural area. Older developments like ours have large lots and care was taken to protect as many mature trees as possible. I imagine that city officials and contractors found a way to build homes while preserving as many trees as possible. Unfortunately, the current administration hasn’t taken the same care with new developments and I can’t understand why because trees do so much for us.
They protect us: We’ve all sat under the cool shade of a tree on blazing-hot summer days. They give us beauty: Year-round, we look out our windows at the cardinals, bluejays, robins, doves, chickadees and other species who flit around the branches of the trees in our yard. They offer entertainment: Squirrels and chipmunks playfully chase each other up and down tree trunks, sometimes performing feats of athleticism. They do magic: In cold weather, tree branches twinkle and glisten with ice and snow. On the night of a full moon, our street looks like a winter wonderland. Most important of all: They help to fight pollution and soil erosion.
Our lot has several birch trees, evergreens, a crab apple tree, maples and until last year, an enormous tree that had to be taken down when a storm badly damaged it. I won’t pretend that co-habitating with so many trees is always positive. There are hours of raking to be done over several weekends in the fall. Wind and snow storms damage the trees and they, in turn, wreak havoc with power lines. It’s not unusual for our power to be out for three days in a row. The trees need to be pruned regularly or their branches become uninvited guests at dinner on our deck.
So, yes, sometimes (often) our property looks messy because it’s littered with broken branches or fallen leaves. But these are minor inconveniences compared to what the trees give back to us.
LITTLE WILLOW / Paul McCartney
I can’t verify this , but it has been said that McCartney wrote this song after Ringo Starr’s first wife passed away in 1997.