healing this epidemic


pooh and piglet

“Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?’ “Supposing it didn’t”, said Pooh, after careful thought. Piglet was comforted by this.



There is an epidemic in the neighborhood.

Trees are dying. Unexpected, unsuspected.  Even the season before they succumb, they appear on the surface to be healthy, but suddenly (so it seems) with the coming of spring there is no budding, no leaves, no hope. The arborist is called. The tree is felled before it falls…. on some unsuspecting passerby.

But the sick trees… chestnut oaks, ash, hemlock… are not the epidemic I am referring to. For the sickness has spread to the people, infecting them with a caution that verges on paranoia. Now, trees that have sap flowing through their veins, trees that are in full leaf, trees that are thriving, or merely struggling to do so, are suspect. Red ribbons are tied around their bellies like scarlet letters. Soon enough, the cacophony of chainsaws rings through the air.

I once heard a medical doctor state that he could find something ‘wrong’ with any patient over the age of 40 who stepped through his office door, given enough poking, prodding and testing. His ethics, however, cautioned him as to whether or not it was prudent to aggressively treat every ‘abnormality’ that presented, often causing more trauma, at the very least doing more harm than he intended to prevent, to a patient who otherwise would’ve lived well and long.

When we moved into this home 4 years ago, we were advised that the Hemlock on our property was dying and should come down. There is an ordinance that holds the property owner responsible for taking care of such matters and also for any damage incurred if s/he does not.  Looking at her, I could clearly see she was hopelessly sick – polluted with parasites, thinly needled, ghostly gray, missing her top. We were ‘this close’ to ceding to the arborist’s blade when he knocked on our door, like the grim reaper.

Unsightly though she was, I chose instead to let her live out her life to its natural conclusion. Let her at least become food for insects and fungi, woodpeckers and eventually cavity dwelling creatures, I thought. Soon, however, I learned of something that I could feed to her roots, which she could take in to protect strengthen and protect herself. Being such a large tree, with so few remaining needles, I wasn’t at all confident that a few cups of granules every 12 months would help her. I supposed I was merely offering palliative care.

You probably cannot begin to imagine my delight when this tree flushed out with fresh, lush bright green growth a few weeks ago.(along with her sister on the other side of the house, the one that the birds love to use now as shelter when diving to and from her heavy, low hanging branches to the feeder that stands in her shade) I felt like dancing!!(well, in truth, I did)

So, I have selected 4 additional trees, not on our property, but deeper into the common area, where the arborist is frequently called to make rounds in the sick ward.  I am concerned, as I know that he will be called soon to address the dead chestnut oaks there. I’d like to be given a few years to see if I can heal them.

‘I’d like to be given a few years to see if I can heal them’


We may appear to be dying, but perhaps rather than massive amputation, instead of inducing more trauma, we require just a little attention, some nurture applied to our roots, so that we might be convinced once again to thrive.


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