I have committed an eco-crime. Worse than using household cleaners so toxic they can neutralize a nuclear waste dump because, frankly, anyone who thinks all I need is soda water and elbow grease hasn’t seen my bathroom.
Worse than standing on my front step in February, pointing a spray can at the ozone layer — by that time of year I start to think of the GreenhouseEffect as God’s little gift to those of us who can’t afford a Caribbean cruise.
What I did was this — I am a tree killer.
In my front yard there is … was … an aged cherry tree. Weeks ago the City Works Dept. declared the tree dangerously frail.
Yesterday, workers arrived to cut it down.
“I’m not emotionally prepared,” I said.
City Workers: No problem. It’s going to take at least 10 minutes to get our equipment ready.
Me: I might need longer.
They eye me warily with that “we’re used to dealing with insane members of the public” look perfected by civic workers and retail clerks.
Workers: How long?
Me: Enough time to find some neighbours who will stand around sharing favourite tree-related stories, join in a ritual group tree-hug … then maybe have some barbecue. Is that too much to ask?
Workers: Not at all. So long as you can make it happen in the next 10 minutes.
I don’t blame these men. I loved the tree.
But, the things that really matter in life fall into two categories: very reasonable, rational things we care about ourselves, and totally inexplicable irrational things other people care about.
Neighbours now stalk past the house thinking, “Tree killer.” I know this because one of them said so.
Neighbour: You cut down your tree.
Me: The city did. It was really old. Over 80. When something’s decrepit, you have to get rid of it, right?
Neighbour’s mother: I’m 83. Tree killer.
I called my eco-champion friend, Rose.
Me: I’m going to write a book about how I’m not a tree killer. A sweeping saga. “Gone With The Chainsaw.”
Rose: Using huge wads of paper might not be the best way to prove you care about trees.
In spring, the city will plant a silver oak. I will feed and water it.
I will become known again, I hope, as a tree nurturer. In the meantime, there’s something I’ll miss far more than my eco-friendly reputation.
I’ll miss my cherry tree.