Out on a limb: The tree and I


I think that I shall never see, a poem so lovely as a tree.

Unless that sucker’s in my front yard, and then all bets are off.

Until recently I would have said I was a lover of trees. An arborist at heart. A person who had never, to my knowledge, harbored a bit of ill-will toward our leaf-bound brethren.

Lurking leaves. That is until I discovered, to my disgust, what could happen when good trees go bad.

To set the stage, it must first be made clear that we are not talking about a law-abiding tree born and bred in the wide open spaces. Oh no. We are talking about a purely urban tree.

The kind of tree that hangs out on street corners, lurks around alleyways, and heaves up sidewalks when no one is looking. The tree your mother should have warned you about.

Out on a limb. The tree in question lives close to a city property that we own. What we have is a lovely old home on a lot the size of a postage stamp.

What we did not know we have is a tree.

The tree resides out front between the sidewalk and the road. I had scarcely noticed it before, other than to note in passing that it is very large and just sort of loitering around the way trees are prone to do.

It lurks on what is commonly referred to by normal people as “the tree lawn” (clever no?)

This is, of course, referred to as “the easement” by bureaucratic city hall types who would fling themselves kamikaze style onto their rubber stamp collection before being accused of speaking like normal people.

So there we are, with a tree, older than the city, that lives on the easement between the road and the sidewalk. A homeless street tree, so to speak.

In virtually every other community in the free world, this would be the city’s responsibility.

A menace. Which brings us to yesterday. When the city hall bureaucrats inform me that “my” tree was “hazardous” and must come down.

It was a toss-up over what was more astonishing. That a multi-hundred year old tree still happily blooming, or leafing or whatever you call it – could so easily be dismissed (do squatter’s rights mean nothing to these people?), or the newfound knowledge that I had a tree at all.

Yours, mine, and not ours. Suddenly, I was not only the proud owner of one very large tree (with its own mob of disgruntled, pitchfork-bearing residents bent on lynching anyone who would harm a leaf ), but the reprobate tree was requiring vast transfusions of cash to save it.

Interesting to note that the city or “someone” (perhaps trespassing itinerant tree trimmers?) had heretofore pruned the tree without our knowledge for years – back in those halcyon days when it was just hanging out doing the upstanding citizen shtick, beautifying the neighborhood, providing welcoming shade.

Only when the tree went bad did it, apparently, become “my” tree.

I commend City Hall for so chivalrously notifying me, being next of kin and all. This must be what it’s like to have an unknown relation with a criminal past show up at your door asking for money.

Tough tree love. So today I am a new parent to a street tree in need of behavior modification (and you know how hard it is to free a tree of bad habits when you don’t get custody until they are older. It’s certainly much easier to raise a tree from infancy I would think).

See how a day can go when you aren’t careful to throw away the mail and never pick up the phone?

One minute you are happy-go-lucky, the next minute you are demanding DNA tests on a tree, wondering what went wrong in the tree’s formative years that it would all turn out this way?

Your tree goes from being a sweet, good-natured sort that never gave you a lick of worry, to a hazardous tree, probably prone to illicit gambling and selling crack on street corners.

No wait, for that it would need to be on the other side of town.

So … anyone know a good tree therapist? If we speak to it, will it straighten up and fly, or stand, right?

I think with just a little bit of tough love there might still be some life in the old tree, if not city hall ethics.

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt steadfastly maintains that she has no relation with that tree. She welcomes comments c/o kseabolt@epohi.com or P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)


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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.