Anne Notations

Friday, April 25, 2008

Old sap

My Connecticut friend e-mailed me today about a doomed tree in her front yard:

It's about 100 years old, 60 feet high, cabled extravagantly, and the pride of the neighborhood. Last week a giant branch fell, shaking the house but not damaging person or property. The tree doctor told us its time had come, and we are in shock and denial about this. It's like putting any other living creature to sleep.

Oh, yes. I know exactly what she means. A mature tree is like an old man or woman: majestic, dignified, beautiful. You can actually love a tree.

Not only that, but there's the whole killing-a-living-thing aspect of tree-felling. The sound of a chain saw in action outdoors can bring me to tears. I have apologized to plants while pruning their stems to encourage fuller growth; indeed, in my 20s I composed in my head a short poem about pinching the central stalks from potted impatiens cuttings, ending with this lament: "Life just begun / is done, is done." (Drama "R" us.)

I responded to my friend with sympathy about the impending loss of her tree:

ME: It’s a death similar to a beloved pet’s death. On an inane level, I have trouble throwing out post-Christmas poinsettias.

HER: I'm getting so whacked out as I age that I can't stand to kill a tree for Christmas! Last year we had a live tree, and it's still alive (but outside).

ME: We’ve had an artificial one for about five years. I started imagining that the fresh-cut tree’s sap was its tears, and that was that.

We then segued into the subject of eating meat and the horror of slaughterhouses. I mentioned Temple Grandin and her efforts to make the farming and killing of livestock more humane. A fascinating wrinkle in this story is the fact that Grandin, holder of a Ph.D. in animal science, is herself autistic.

SHE: I love Temple Grandin. Do you know about the hugging machine she invented?

ME: No! But I want one! Is it for people?

SHE: It's for autistic people who can't stand other people touching them. But the beneficial effects of being hugged are necessary for emotional growth – so she invented this machine she lies in that hugs her.

That's very cool. Grandin knew that as a human being she needed something, and she found a way to get it while acknowledging the limitations imposed by her autism.

As someone whose affect lies near the opposite emotional pole from autistic, I enjoy hugging, and being hugged by, real people. My family is in the living room (a rare moment of shared activity – watching a baseball game on TV), and I am going out there now to collect some hugs. You should get some, too. If you're alone, well, go outside and hug a tree. I believe the tree will realize, in an intuitive, plant-ish way, that you – fellow organism, alive – are there with your arms wrapped lovingly around it.


  • Anne, I thought I was the only person who cries when plants die. We had an old white oak at our house in Texas that died because topsoil got piled on top of its roots (new construction--it was in our backyard). It was still alive when we left but I looked at a satellite picture of that yard recently and the tree was dead. I wept for hours.
    I'm the same with any living plant/tree/bush, no matter the age.

    It's Dawn, btw. From ASITS.

    By Blogger Dawn, at Fri May 30, 04:51:00 PM EDT  

  • I love trees. I can't stand those landscaping shows where they just rip out old plants to make room for artsy new stuff. I always hope someone in the crew rescues some of them.

    I love trees so much, that after heart rot, root girdling, and termites took two of our oldest and tallest trees I missed them so bad that when I found tiny little versions of the lost trees sprouting up all over...I replanted them in a bit better sections of the yard...I'm setting myself up for it all over again. But they're neat trees. One's a sweetgum and one's a mulberry. Or I should say one *was*. The mulberry had like, twenty babies. Our neighbors used to whine that our trees were blocking their view, but man, when I die*, the backyard is going to become a surprise forest. Eheheheh.

    (And to further show my borderline nutty devotion to, "just plants," when our puppy was young she ripped a branch off a forsythia, and by god I got that branch to root and it lives on a few feet away from it's mama plant.)

    *I fully expect to be devoured by greenery. Heh.

    By Blogger BrideOfPorkins, at Fri May 30, 10:30:00 PM EDT  

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