17 March 2003
Watching it go
I was squishing my way down to the mailbox when F. (not necessarily her real initial) poked her head out of her door and acknowledged my presence.
In response, I pointed to the big elm tree out front and said, "What do you think? Dead?"
"Think so," she replied.
The big elm tree is about thirty percent less big this spring: a winter ice storm broke away one of the three major limbs, and while everything else is gradually going green well, except the cottonwood trees along 42nd, which are already sprouting Q-tips this tree is still barren, its branches grey, almost black in the March rain.
One does not romanticize trees on the prairie; they are there, and eventually they are not there, and you're supposed to shrug and go on. It's different in the Midwest, as H. Allen Smith once explained:
Midwesterners worship trees. I have frequent guests from the middle states and invariably I find that they venerate trees and that the cutting down of a tree is, to them, close to a mortal sin. I'll be walking around the premises with one of them, and I'll point to a tree and say, "Think I'll get the ax and take that damn tree out." They are horrified. They react as if I'd said, "Think I'll get the ax, since it's a nice day, and do away with my wife and kids."
I looked at the big elm again, and maybe I did, maybe I didn't, see the faintest hint of green along the lower branches, the tender beginnings of a leaf or two or a dozen or a thousand. Then again, I was born in Illinois.
Curiously, so was H. Allen Smith.