Tuesday, July 08, 2014

When a Tree Falls in a Neighborhood...

When great trees fall 
in forests, 
small things recoil into silence,
 their senses 
eroded beyond fear 
–Maya Angelou

The greatness of the trees on my mind today isn’t in their stature, or even, really, in their intrinsic value, as they have long stopped producing sweet, juicy spheres of peachy goodness.

Every day, usually twice, my husky, Audrey and I go down the road and around the corner, covering a mile or so of what promotional signage calls our urban seaside village. Our particular sector is an older neighborhood, with houses dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries interspersed among other homes from every consecutive era. 

Although there’s no denying that we live in a city, you can’t go very far in our neighborhood without hitting water, most notably a river that’s a gateway to the nearby bay, and several marshy areas.  We’ve also managed to hold on to some vestiges of “farmland”: a large lot that appears to be a cooperative garden, acreage belonging to the farmer who runs the farm market on the main thoroughfare around the corner, and an abandoned peach orchard that runs alongside a tract of marsh. The shady, dead end road that runs between the orchard and the marshy inlet has served Audrey and I well as a sort of miniature state park.

As neglect sent the orchard into latency years ago, I suppose I should not view it as a tragedy that the owner decided it was time to let it go. Heavy machinery showed up the other day to begin knocking down the remains of the dormant orchard, readying the land for new use.  Is development not the definition of progress, and is progress not our collective, cultural goal?

But what, really, is progress? Can it be measured by the number of small things that make way for bigger, more complex things?  Of small homes--nests for birds and bunnies and wet, marshy tunnels for nutria-- making way for homes of cement, drywall, and lumber hewn from other fallen forests?  Is this the mark of achievement? And, once these small homes have been replaced by bigger dwellings for larger life, what other small things must give way next to meet the demands of the new inhabitants? The small things asked for little, save a bit of rainwater, mud, and twigs.  Something tells me the orchard is just the beginning of the little things that will begin to fall.  The neighborhood has been crawling for days with people with clipboards and phones, gas trucks, city vehicles, driving slowly, parking frequently, scouting, I assume for other small places to lay claim. In the midst of it all, I stopped today to visit my neighbor and wonder if the new ones will be as beautiful or as quiet:

So I bid farewell to the old orchard; and to the peaceful retreat it provided. Those trees will live on, great, indeed in my memory. 


MOM said...

We have to wonder if what we have gained through progress is greater than the loss.

Cynthia Davis said...

Mom, I completely agree. When The Minister first saw the destruction, he said "A book I read as a child prepared me for this," and in unison we both said "The Little House"! Do you remember that book? It was mine first, and I passed it down to him. It was a wise teacher.


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