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Hacked to Death

“It is not so much for the Beauty that the forest makes a claim upon man’s hearts, as for that subtle something, quality of the air that emulates from old trees that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”                        -  Robert Lewis Stevenson

If you hadn’t had the opportunity to walk in a forest but you grew up along side Tar Creek, there are some areas that could give you that feeling. You could know it was different, the temperature cooler in the summer, the bright sunlight dappling making the trees your only companions. You can befriend a tree, and feel like you are known. A bond can be formed that can exist as a place in your memory you can transform back to even sixty years later. I had that kind of relationship with an elm tree in my front yard. She got sick when I was 7. Her leaves fell way before they needed to as demanded by the first frost. The leaves would not stop falling. My parents were convinced she was worthy of attention and called for a professional to assess her ailment. It was fatal. She would not make it; she had succumbed to the Dutch Elm disease and she and those other millions would die that season. I would sit up in the arms of that tree and sing to her after school each day. At first rather hidden by the leaves and less hidden as the days passed and I could be seen by any passer-by. Then one day when I got home from school. She was gone. Totally, only the yard-level base of her was left. I could stand ON all that was left. I am seven years old again just telling it. I wish now I had named her. She should have had a real name besides her Latin one, and in that way formally part of our family, so grieving could have been by all of us in a more formal way. My mother kept lantana growing there ever after, rather like little flower bouquets for the past occupant of the space.

Sun light peaking through tree branches

Some of those kinds of feelings arose this past year right here in Miami, Oklahoma. There along Tar Creek, the bank widens along a part where the edge of the water is right next to you as you walk down toward the BSN railroad bridge. It started with some random hack marks on the shade trees, then those hacks turned into a sort of stairway to the heights of the tree where from the top you might fling yourself into the deeper parts of the creek, or find a way to reach the rope swing across the way. It was that way for quite a while, a little hack here, another step gouged into the heart of the big tree that leaned so low across the water. One day I encountered 2 boys and saw that one had a real hatchet strapped to his bicycle. I stopped to talk for few minutes and asked for them to watch for people who might be harming the trees. Assured and dismissed, when I turned, I noticed one of the older of the two had what looked like an actual pistol in a holster around his waist.

In my mind as I walked away. I rather believed if it might be easy to hack a tree, might it also be easy to hack into a busy-body tree lover? Since that encounter, I rather changed my behavior and sought companions to come with on the inspections of the lonely parts of the middle of the city down there by Tar Creek where the vandals of trees hang out.

Tree with branch ladder up to rope swing overlooking Tar Creek

If you walked down that path this fall sunlight fell though a diminished lacework of leaves. There is a word for the sound of wind in the trees and the rustling of leaves but I can’t pronounce it: psithurism [sith-yuh-riz-uhm]. Normally a walk in the woods would be good for you, but what we learned from EPA’s Swimming Hole Report, not so much here along your Tar Creek’s wooded paths. The company of trees is now lonelier.

One after the other have gone to the hatchet, hacked to death I would say by whom? Forest killer kids, or their daddies, uncles, maybe big brother accomplices. Surely those at the Veterans Memorial Disc Golf goal right by Tar Creek heard the echoes of the little hatchets on the firm trunks of the 80-year-old trees and must have wondered what that sound was before they left with their next throw.

Tree cut down on bank of Tar Creek

It is a known fact that 2 mature trees will provide enough oxygen for a person to breathe for more than a year. As Chief Seattle said, “All things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the man... the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.”

If you encounter the tree killers in what is left of the forest, speak up for the remaining trees.

Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim

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