Death is all around us, but the death happening as I type these lowly words this early spring morning is unnecessary. It is happening because a neighbor is inconvenienced and has the power to create a patio with fire pit and grill less troubled by the roots and seed pods and leaves of a magnificent red maple tree. The man high in the bucket cuts with his chain saw and drops limbs that have taken perhaps thirty or more years to grow, and the modern machine grinds them into a mulch that will leave no history of their shade and vibrant fall colors. As Hopkins wrote of the Binsey Poplars-“Felled, all felled….” The crew of men will be gone in a few hours after removing what took years to become, but no matter-the tree, as my neighbor said, was messy and in the way. In our modern Lake Norman manner, we remove any in our way because we have the resources.
I understand that there are times that trees must be removed because, for instance, they pose a danger to a house foundation or septic system. However, it seems to me that on Isle of Pines Road, many owners are willing to cut any bush or tree that is, in their eyes, a hinderance of some sort. And, the reader may say, the tree belongs to the homeowner, and that is true, but in some way, if we are community, each tree belongs to all of us. In a community, what I do on my little postage stamp of land affects the community, and since that is true, I have an obligation to honor that commitment.
But for me, there is another commitment besides the one to my community on Isle of Pines Road. In my favorite story of creation, it is written: “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and keep it.” No words such as cut, remove, destroy are here, but words that imply stewardship are.
In 1879 Hopkins wrote these words in his poem Binsey Poplars, “ O if we but knew what we do/ When we delve or hew —/Hack and rack the growing green!”
To answer Hopkins, yes we think we know what we are doing because in our short sighted decisions, we are believing in the myth that man is in and can control.