Editor: Just now as I'm writing this I can hear the high, unsettling whine of chain saws outside my door. The city is cutting down a majestic oak tree in front of my apartment.
The old giant, trunk crusted green with lichen, has seen a lot while this little Dunedin neighborhood grew up all around it. Now after many years of peaceful coexistence, trucks and growling bulldozers encircle the tree. The surrounding street and sidewalks have been torn up for weeks while city crews replace worn-out sewage and gas lines. The oak must go, I am told, because some of the major roots were cut during the digging, making the tree unstable and a safety hazard. A strong wind could topple the crippled giant.
Earlier, while watching the surgical precision of the tree cutters, I felt anger rising in me. "How can they do this?" "They have no right!" "This tree was here first!"
I even considered acts of civil disobedience _ perhaps lying down in front of the trucks, or standing under the massive branches and daring them to drop on me. I decided against that after realizing the workers might gladly oblige me.
My anger became overshadowed by a sense of helplessness, a knowing that there was not a thing I could do to save that tree. The decision had already been made by people who don't even live here and had been carried out by others just doing their job. It did not matter how I and my neighbors felt. Our love and concern could do nothing.
I am sorry for that and sorry for not being righteously indignant enough against the destruction of wild things. We enjoy or tolerate them when it pleases us, but unfortunately, nature keeps getting in our way _ in the way of progress.
The chain saws have stopped, and somehow the silence only saddens me more. I know that the job is now done. I walk outside and stand beside what is left of the tree: an amputated trunk.
In that moment I make a decision. All the sorrow in the world won't bring back this oak tree, but I can at least be thankful for all the other beauty and wonder that surround me.
I am fortunate to live in an urban area rich in natural wildlife. A short walk by the water will turn up some of the most amazing things _ small creatures and flowers which, when examined closely, will reveal the unique and intricate patterns of nature. I am grateful to be able to witness this rich diversity and, seen in that light, I can also be grateful for the opportunity to enjoy the oak tree while it was here.
Some ancient traditions say that nothing ever dies, its energy simply changes form and sooner or later it will reappear somewhere else.
That old oak tree, soon to be turned back into earth, taught me a big lesson. Its message is that, in time, it will grow again, bringing delight to all those who stand under its leafy canopy. I like to think I will be one of them.