Monday, July 21, 2008

"And We Saved the Tree"

© 2008 Karen Van Fossan

Tree-hugger is one of those terms I wear proudly, like a Girl Scout badge. There's worse things to hug in this world, I'm pretty sure. And (no offense to all the huggable trees out there) there's one tree I especially love to hug. I gaze on my friend, this 60-year-old elm tree, from my window every day.

I turn to this tree when I get the news...
Polar bears may be extinct by this summer.
Wolves being shot to death in Idaho and Wyoming.
Hundreds of bison needlessly slaughtered in Yellowstone National Park.

Even when I cannot bear to read this news, I feel it. I can tell my world is suffering from a distinct loss of the wild. I know I don't hear bison thundering on the plains, or listen to the wolves calling to the moon, or live in a stable climate that can nourish cold-weather species for very long. So, because I need to, I gaze on my tree each day.

This living, nurturing, mama tree reminds me there is wildness. The squirrels climb, with braiding tracks, up and down her trunk. Birds of many kinds, every shade of prairie color, stop here for a moment. This tree is my place of peace, my wild refuge.

But then, just before Earth Day, I see two City officials circling my tree, with an ominous piece paper in their hands. In my best June Cleaver impression, I bustle out the door and ask, Can I help you?

My tree will be chopped down, they say. Something to do with water pipes. That's all I understand. My tree will die this summer. There's nothing they can do; they seem sorry.

I concoct schemes:
1) Become a full-time tree sitter.
2) Chain myself to the tree.
3) Invite my dad to Bismarck and chain him to the tree.

Soon I become...
1) Depressed.
2) More depressed.
3) Even more depressed.

Then, weeping under my tree one night, I ask myself these questions...
1) What if there's a way to save my tree?
2) What can I do in my lifetime?
3) What if City officials love trees too?

I call all kinds of people and make some curious additions to my vocabulary:
1) Curb stop.
2) Water valve.
3) Water main.
4) Service line.
5) Service connection.
6) Directional drill.
7) Splice.

Many times, Kris and I talk to...
1) The city.
2) Contractors.
3) Subcontractors.
4) The work crew from Geo E Haggart, Inc.
5) Friends and family (for good measure).

How all of the above decide to help us, I don't know. But on Thursday, July 17, 2008,
our water line is moved, clear around the tree.

At 4:30, I ask, Are you done already? Yes, they say, they're done. One crew member tells me, We didn't tear up the concrete. He gestures toward the elm. And we saved the tree.

Tree-huggers, every one.


Julie said...

YEAH!!! We need MORE TREES!!!! What a great job you and Kris did in saving your tree. Now the world knows that it can be done.

Dad said...

I read your tree hugger story and laughed my head off. Chaining me to a tree would be a little like poking a grizzly bear and telling him to behave. U are so delightful, but seriously congratulations on a beautiful piece of diplomacy. Everyone came out whole especially the tree. Did you say it was an elm el-M tree as Grandpa would have said?
Love, Dad

blogslut said...

Trees are our mamas/mommas/ma-mas...thanks for saving her! Isn't it nice to feel happy when you walk by her instead of that crappy sad feeling??