Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Of Trees, Birds, and Sadness

 All it has experienced, tasted, suffered:
The course of years, generations of animals,
Oppression, recovery, friendship of sun and - Wind
Will pour forth each day in the song
Of its rustling foliage, in the friendly
Gesture of its gently swaying crown,
In the delicate sweet scent of resinous
Sap moistening the sleep-glued buds,
And the eternal game of lights and
Shadows it plays with itself, content.
- Herman Hesse, 1877 – 1962

I’m listening to the furious buzz of chainsaws as branches, big and small, are severed from a tree. The same fate will befall the trunk in a short time. Every bit will be sawn into chunks that will then be chewed and spit into a machine. Soon, two tall trees will be nothing more than a pile of sawdust.

The trees stand in the neighbor’s lawn. One tree was dead and needed to be removed, but the other tree leafed out and provided shade to the neighbor’s home and ours. It was also home to birds, insects, and the occasional raccoon. How many creatures were affected by the poor decision of an oblivious man? Gone are nests. No more yellow finches squabbling from leafy branches.

No more robins singing lullabies from the tops of the tree as the sun gave way to the moon.

No more photos of birds perched on the branches of those two trees.

And I am sad.

When the neighbor informed us he was having the trees cut down, I asked him if he planned to replace the trees…plant new ones. His obtuse response, “Why should I? I won’t be here to see them mature.” So in place of trees and birds we have a clear view of his cement driveway.
Someone's sitting in the shade today because
someone planted a tree a long time ago.
- Warren Buffett

 Before I go any further, I understand that trees are a product and my beef is not with loggers or companies that harvest trees and then replant. My problem is with homeowners who indiscriminately cut trees without researching the best times and have no intention of replacing the decimated tree.
I lived on Cape Cod for a time. One of the surprising things I saw was how villages and individuals treasure trees. Route 6A on Cape Cod is a winding two-lane highway that meanders through quaint villages, passed 200 year-old homes, and around ancient trees. Instead of clearing a path to make a road the builders constructed the road within the given parameters, creating a scenic drive and preserving the natural and historical beauty.
When will we learn?
  • Trees reduce air pollutants like carbon dioxide and convert and release it as life-giving oxygen.
  • Trees aid in soil retention and drink in lots of water preventing floods.
  • Trees are home and sustenance to wildlife that create a diverse natural world: Birds, butterflies, squirrels, raccoon, opossum, and insects of all kinds from the charming red with black spots ladybug to cicadas singing an aria in late summer.
  • Trees provide shade, cooling homes in summer heat
  • Trees provide fruit, nuts, and products to the world
  • Trees please the soul adding great beauty and wonder to life on earth
Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918
This is an act I was unaware of until I began doing a bit research on the best time to cut trees in the yard. If a tree is diseased, dying or dead it’s wise to remove it before it falls in a great wind causing damage or harm. Living trees should be cut down after the nesting season.

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, “The MBTA made it illegal for people to "take" migratory birds, their eggs, feathers or nests. Take is defined in the MBTA to include by any means or in any manner, any attempt at hunting, pursuing, wounding, killing, possessing or transporting any migratory bird, nest, egg, or part thereof .” I would think that includes cutting down a live tree during nesting season. What’s the harm in waiting until fledglings have left the nest?

Birds on the list include: Common Barn Owl, Blackbird, Red-wing Blackbird, Eastern Bluebird, Bobolink, Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Chickadee, American Crow, Mourning Dove, Bald Eagle, American Goldfinch, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Blue Jay, Song Sparrow, House Wren, and yes…my beloved American Robin. This is a small group of the over 800 birds on the list.

Approximately 4 billion trees are cut down in a year, making these two little trees of little importance in the grand scheme of life, but to me those trees provided a bit of shade, bird entertainment, and that indefinable something that just makes a soul smile and feel content.

So, today I’m sad. I’m sad for the tree that still housed a bevy of birds, but perhaps I’m mostly sad for myself. I’m going to miss those trees as I sit on the patio yearning for an enlightened world where the flora and fauna of an area are appreciated and treasured by all.
Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.
- Kahlil Gibran


  1. But you have a tree on your side between you and that obnoxious neighbour?

  2. I am sorry for the loss of a healthy tree, Teresa. And sorry for the loss of home for the birds, shade and privacy for you and the neighbor. It is always shocking at the difference a tree taken down makes. Over the years we have had many trees taken down for various reasons, including the giant maple Ferngully at our present house. All I can suggest is to plant a replacement on your own property, one that you have total control over.

  3. Hi Diana...nope no more trees between the two property lines to lend a bit of privacy or shade.

    Greetings Frances...Unfortunately, I do not own the property so my hands and green thumbs are tied. This particular neighbor has taken down 4 or 5 trees in his yard in the last year. He's on his riding lawn mower often, so I guess he prefers mowing in straight lines rather than having to mow around trees.

  4. I am sad for the loss of a beautiful tree. All too often, homeowners do not see the value of trees. I mention to my clients who may not care about the ecological benefits, that trees also add a lot of value to their home. Sometimes that is what it takes for them to plant and keep trees. Kind of sad, isn't it?

  5. Noelle...thank you for stopping by. Yes it is very sad and it angers me as well. How fortunate the world is to have horticulturists/landscapers, like you, who strive to make clients understand the value of the natural world.

  6. Lovely pictures. I mourn the loss of trees too. They give distinction, comfort and beauty to the landscape.

  7. That is sad. Over the years, I've watched my inlaws slowing removing their trees, each for a different reason, till none are left. What a shame.

  8. Im sorry for what has happened in your neighbors garden.I can totally relate to your this. A few weeks ago someone bought the 3 acres next to us. For 7 days the chain saws and chippers took down tree after tree. Most of them were cedars and the rules are none greater than an 8" caliper and no hardwoods. He took no notice of that. Imagine doing this during nesting season. Now his plan is to fence the whole 3 acres cutting gazing ground for the deer. The poor animals are so pressured.


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