We’ve been in Pittsburg for 24 years and we’ve been in our house for 23. As I look out my window, my view of the street is blocked by trees. None of these trees were here when we moved into the house. Jean and I planted every single one of them ourselves. Some of them we rescued from Walmart. One of them comes from an acorn some squirrel buried. It was too close to our house and we transplanted it.
In our yard, we’ve got oaks; we’ve got gum trees; we’ve got holly bushes; we’ve got redbud trees; we’ve got cherry trees; we’ve got peach trees; we’ve got a linden tree; we’ve got a walnut tree; and we even have a tree of heaven.
Of those, only the walnut and the tree of heaven were here when we moved in. There were other trees. There was an elm that died a slow and exceedingly painful death at the hands of dutch elm. There was a cantankerous old cherry tree that got sicker and sicker and sicker. There was a maple that sat on the property line and had a long limb that hung out over our neighbor’s. There was also a row of 17 pine trees along the property line on one side of the house. They are all gone now. As a tree man told us once, everything grows old and dies.
When we moved in, we benefited from the trees that were already here. When they died off, we felt we had an obligation to replace them. This was not a burden for us because we like trees. Not everybody does. Some of the most vociferous anti-tree folks you will see are among those who trim trees for a living. I’ve had them tell me they’ve cut down every tree in their yard. I suppose the professionals, having to deal with trees so much, see some things that are hard to see.
Their actions have reason, but they come at a cost to themselves, the future, and, of course, the trees.
My favorites are the oaks. I’ve got three that are of good size. One of them is a little salt oak that was sent home from school with my middle daughter. It sat in a pot for a year or two until we figured out a place to put it. We put it there and it did nothing. Then we moved it to a sunnier place, and it took off. The other two are due to forgetful/careless squirrels. One of them we put where the salt oak had been, and it’s doing just fine. The other is right out my window now as I sit typing.
I remember the day I rescued it. Jean wanted to cut it down as a weed, but I simply couldn’t. The white space after the period and before the “T” took me ten minutes to write. I was trying to come up with some rational reason why I couldn’t cut it down, but then I realized there was none. I simply couldn’t. It was alive and I didn’t want to kill it. I’ve killed trees before and since, don’t get me wrong, but this one I couldn’t, and I am glad as it is truly a handsome tree.
Barring ice storms, accidents, or acts of city government, this oak tree outside my window will outlive me. I will die. Jean will die. Our children will sell our house. Someone will move in and inherit our trees. They might, and perhaps rightly, come to the conclusion that we were tree-crazy. But, regardless, they will be affected by something that we’ve done.
I am taken with the notion that an acorn is, in fact, and oak tree. (Said less well but more precisely, acorns and oaks trees are time-slices of the same entity.) It is a radical notion. It marks me as a tree-crazy fool. Not all acorns live to have birds roosting in their limbs after all; that is not nature’s way. But were it not for that acorn, the birds would have to perch on the electric lines instead.
And if one generation did not allow the trees that come into their care to live, the next generation would not have them. They wouldn’t have all the headaches associated with them, but they would not have their shade nor would they have their beauty.
(Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, is Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Mathematics at Pittsburg State University. He blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. You may contact him at email@example.com. We invite you to “like” the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook. )