Sunday, October 07, 2007

Invasion of the sod people

OK, OK. So I cheated. A little.

The Round Robin challenge last time was Backyard Photography. I tried to use the back yard, I really did, but five minutes into the project the tears started falling, so I left. Tammie Jean included a loophole of sorts with the "or a local park" phrase, so I went with the commons area out front. Sorry if I ticked anyone off.

Here's the long, sad story: We live on city-size lots in a suburb. However, this development was carved out of the private estate of someone who loved, collected, and preserved trees, and the developer saved every one he possibly could. We're talking oaks a hundred to two hundred years old, rare shag bark hickories, mature maples -- ancient, hardwood forest. I was in love with every one of them.

When we moved here almost twenty years ago, the yards were so heavily wooded that we could barely see the houses immediately around us. Being in the back yard was like going camping. It was secluded, cool, infinitely relaxing. There were mossy stones and a dozen varieties of wild flowers; we had lady slipper, jack in the pulpit, trout lilies, and violets in purple and white. A dense ground cover filled the shallow valley that runs between the properties in back. It bloomed yellow in spring, a wide golden river meandering off into the shadowy woods. Squirrels raised families here, chipmunks sunned on the deck railing. There were baby rabbits in the spring, and gardening turned up the occasional turtle and toad. Native songbirds jostled for a turn at the feeders. To me, it was paradise.

Over time, we inevitably lost trees to age, disease and storms. A tornado came through a few years ago and took down many more. Sad as that was, I could reconcile myself to it as nature's way. But in the last two years, new neighbors have moved in behind and to the side of us, and between them they have taken down at least 40 trees, great and small. They cut off all the low branches on the few survivors, branches that formed the deep green views from my windows; I can now see into neighbors' rooms, and I assume they can look into mine. They poisoned all the wildflowers, dug up the ground cover, and rolled out plain, green sod penned in by new split rail fences. The forest is gone, the wildlife has fled, and there is no privacy whatsoever.

I can't tell you how deeply it has hurt me to see those grand old trees dying and not to be able to do a thing about it. It has literally sickened me to wake to the sound of chain saws and wood chippers, to fly to the window to see which ones are being killed this time ... to feel the house shake as massive sections of trunks fall to the ground ... to know that it's all being taken away forever. On those days, I have to leave the house, or I'll spend the whole day bawling like a baby. It is more despair and powerlessness and grief than I can bear.

So. That's why I can't photograph my back yard. It just hurts too much to look at it.

9 comments:

Carly said...

Oh Vicki!

Honey I am so sorry about that. We in the Bay Area adore our trees, we are in John Muir country, and consider our Redwoods sacred. You might have heard about the Berkeley tree sitters, who have been protesting the removal of one of the oldest groves of Oak trees still in the city. So I can completely understand what you are saying here.

I liked your RR entry very much, I think you did a very good job with it. Please don't ever feel you have to step outside your comfort zone to do a challenge, we offer the challenges to have a lot of fun and meet creative, and inspiring shutterbugs in the community. All your entries have been fine examples of just that. :)

I do have a question about your neighbors though. Is there anyway to protest to the city you live in or the Homeowners Association? I am sure if you have a governing body who would handle something like this, but I bet you have other neighbors with the same concerns as you. Ask around, maybe there is something proative you can do to help raise awareness to the history of the property and whatever trees still remain. Just a thought.

Hang in there darlin.

Always, Carly

MyMaracas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MyMaracas said...

Thanks, Carly, I really appreciate your support. So many people just don't get why I'm so upset by this. It's nice to hear a sympathetic voice.

We do have a Homeowners Association, and we are supposed to get permission to cut down trees unless they are dangerous or diseased. But here's the thing: Many homes were seriously damaged by falling trees during the tornado. So a lot of folks are no longer feelin' the love. And, I've been told that if the association refuses permission for a homeowner to remove a tree and it subsequently falls, the association can be held liable for the damges. So the association never refuse anymore. And since they can't be refused, people don't bother to ask.

I just don't understand why these new people move in to a wooded property and cut down the trees, when there are several new developments only blocks away with no trees at all.

Anyhoo. Thanks for the tea and sympathy!

Karen Funk Blocher said...

Ooh, that makes me mad! I totally agree that it's a terrible shame that people would move into a place that went out of its way to preserve old growth trees, only to cut them down. It's a sin! It's insane! And it reminds me of a song in the first Mavarin book:

The Bear said the trees are for storing up honey,
The Beaver said trees are for building a dam,
But the Farmer said, "The trees here are costing me money!
It will be much better once I clear the land."

Janet said...

Oh, I know exactly what you mean! We had a willow tree in the backyard that we had to cut down as it had originally been planted too close to the house and in every wind storm we worried. I till miss that tree! And we had an ash in the front yard that just recently had to be cut down as it had grown straight up with no branches for a boog 25 feet...too top heavy! And the Horse Chestnut next door...how I miss that beautiful tree, oh the flowers in the spring!

Sigh...

MyMaracas said...

Thanks, Karen and Janet! It makes me feel better knowing you guys understand.

There is an odd kinship about trees for me, especially old oaks. It sounds nuts, but ... standing quietly beside one of these ancients, I would not be at all surprised to hear it speak. My grandmother was like this too, so I probably got it from her.

Tammie Jean said...

Oh no! I hate when people cut down perfectly healthy trees! I'm not one for sod either... (my "lawn" is a conglomerate of mosses, violets, daisies, weeds - I love them all). Can you plant more trees along your borders? I know it will take time to nurture and grow a new little paradise, but maybe you can encourage some of the wildlife to come back?

julie said...

Man, that is sad. Have you considered lobbying for a tree ordinance in your city? That would take the burden off of the Homeowners Association.

MyMaracas said...

Hi Tammie Jean and Julie. Thanks for stopping in and offering your support and suggestions. I do think I will be planting some new trees and shrubs to screen the views and shelter the wildlings. I hadn't thought of a city tree ordinance, and that has possibilities too.

Again, thanks so much for being here!