I woke from a bad dream to the sound of a buzz saw to discover the mangled corpse of chopped wood chunks and strewn branches, the remains of the beautiful tree that protected my balcony. The former golf course owners sold the land to a developer; and the tree, a victim of drought and greed, lost its caretaker. The tree was home to mourning doves and hummingbirds, a sanctuary for them and a natural shade and privacy screen for my living space. I felt a mixture of sorrow and anger.
I grew up in an immigrant Chicago apartment building encircled with asphalt and concrete and envied the girl who lived in a house with a backyard filled with trees and a swing set across from our apartment. I told myself that someday I would be in a home embraced by trees.
And my wish came true. After I married, we moved to a bedroom community in central Illinois, onto a five acre, semi-wooded lot with wonderful, century-old, sugar maple trees. I eagerly planted my first vegetable garden and delighted in watching the trees change their wardrobes with the passing seasons. We tapped and drank the sap from the maple trees, nectar fit for the gods.
I cared for my house trees and felt a comforting connection from trimming the branches, letting the trees breathe and more light shine through. It was as if the trees knew I was their caretaker, and I sensed their appreciation. During a troubled divorce period, pruning the trees helped me redirect my frustration and anger by cutting off the dead branches, allowing new shoots to grow.
But I couldn’t protect them from nature’s fury. For two years, tornadoes spiraled through the Midwest with a vengeance. Spared one year but not the next, a fierce tornado tore my beloved sugar maples out of the ground taking away their beauty and protection.
When I moved to Virginia, my new home came with stately white oaks for a hammock and a playground for squirrels, Baltimore orioles, blue jays and wrens. These trees also attracted possum, occasional raccoons and even a fox. The trees gave me a sense of being grounded and balanced while I watched my children grow up.
Once again nature tested the trees. They were besieged by gypsy moth caterpillars, hordes that were out of control and devouring forests at night. The white oaks were under attack by a relentless pestilence. Every day I removed the obnoxious caterpillars feeding off the trees and weakening them. The battle seemed endless, but I persisted to save the trees.
During that “infestation” period, I also was fighting an inheritance battle with my father. Battling the gypsy moths helped me release my anger, and saving the trees served as an outlet for my difficult emotional storm.
I have a special connection and history with trees. I have cared for them, and they have cared for me, guardian and protector. We are kindred spirits.
Flash Fiction by Erana Leiken
Erana Leiken’s career: marketing, consulting, blogging, adjunct faculty for writing, marketing, and humanities. Web travel writer, NBC reporter, magazine editor, published in The Washington Post, Arizona Republic, ASBA, the Journal Star, BlogHer.com, The Daily Breeze, Womenfor1, *Star82 Review nominated for Best of the Net Anthology. Selected Top faculty for UOP.