Woodman spare that tree! Apparently it takes more than a poem.

Although I received multiple text messages from friends asking me when I was going to go meet the Space Shuttle, I think I made the right decision to pass on the crowds!

Endeavor arrived at Exposition Park more than 16 hours late, following a three-day, 12-mile journey. I hate to admit it out loud, but that’s too slow for me.

To travel across town, park blocks away, enter heavily policed and monitored perimeters in the hope that I could perfectly coordinate what would undoubtedly be no more than a quick glimpse of the shuttle,  just didn’t seem a good use of weekend. I will be one of the first to do my reporting directly from the California Science Center when the installation opens to the public.

Besides, we had other priorities. Our beautiful old oak tree needed a significant haircut. It needs to be professionally manicured every two years to guard against limb breakage and disease. We are faithful in keeping that appointment. And the time was now!

The oak is the heart of our backyard, and the very large canopy creates an amazing micro-climate of shade and cooler temperatures. In the current heat wave, I hated to thin the foliage, but this is the optimum time of year for a mature oak to withstand a heavy pruning.

There are 20 species of oak native to California–worldwide there are 500 to 600 species of oak.  I found an identical species at the Huntington Botanical Gardens and identified our oak as Quercus agrifolia–or Coast Live Oak. It is an evergreen oak and I was pleased to learn that some specimens may flourish more than 250 years.

Judging by the age of our home and the size of the tree, I’d estimate its age to be about 80 years old. With great care the tortoise and the oak are probably more permanent than I am.

Darwin decided to help us transplant a volunteer fig tree. He can be very assertive!

I have felt great sympathy for the people living in a particular swath of Los Angeles along the Endeavor travel route. Not everyone was comforted that the Science Center was prepared to replace approximately 400 mature trees uprooted in order to provide passageway of  the five-story-tall, 78-foot-wide Endeavor. The city was happy that some “problematic” trees were being removed and touted the Science Center’s promise of doubling the number of replacement trees.

But it stands to reason the new trees will take decades to provide the canopies and beauty of the ones removed.  The local citizens were not consulted or brought into any discussion prior to the decision being made to uproot the trees, which sadly, were a source of pride in an otherwise concrete, urban landscape. Many of the city residents were very troubled at the decision. I’d mourn, too.

I think it will be up to the larger community to advocate for the best possible replacement scenario and to make certain the enthusiasm directed towards transporting Endeavor now builds and shifts to bolster urban beautification.

The words that came to my mind were “Woodman, Spare that Tree!” I’m of a “mature” age, but I’m not so old as to really know that poem. But the words came to mind and I found poem and song.  Apparently saving trees has been an environmental challenge for a long time!

The 4th stanza of the 1830 poem by George Pope Morris:

 My heart-strings round thee cling,

Close as thy bark, old friend!

Here shall the wild-bird sing,

And still thy branches bend.

Old tree! the storm still brave!

And, woodman, leave the spot:

While I’ve a hand to save,

Thy axe shall harm it not!

I think Mr. Morris was an early environmentalist, don’t you?

I’d probably be tempted to chain myself to my tree if someone threatened it.

Do you have a favorite tree?

Take my lead…go and give it a hug!

43 thoughts on “Woodman spare that tree! Apparently it takes more than a poem.

  1. It seems a pity that so many trees were uprooted for the space shuttle… could the shuttle not have been pulled apart and reassembled on site… like any man made object its got to be full of nuts and bolts holding it together… trees take years to develop and then not all are lucky with their positioning so they take longer… if they needed spanners to pull it apart I’m sure there are tree lovers that would happily have lent them theirs…

    • From what I read there wasn’t a way to take the shuttle apart and reassemble, at least not successfully. I didn’t read deep enough to gather why that was! The whole event did highlight to me, once again, how differently people view and experience an event. I’m sure once the new landscaping is in place tension will subside, but it’s been interesting to see how enthusiasm from one sector was insensitive to another. Happens all the time, doesn’t it?

  2. It is always a difficult decision – about whether a tree should stand or not. In this case, it saddens me to learn that the public was not consulted; yet, mature trees can and will injure innocent people. Afterall, it may be possible that a specific tree did not grow at a particular spot naturally.

    • Probably most of the trees removed were part of a previous landscaping commission. Many of them were planted originally to line the boulevards, and that was indeed a part of the argument. Some needed replacing. I do think had the city residents, for instance in Inglewood, been given some consideration in the advanced planning rather than just hearing about it almost as the trees were being uprooted, it would have been preferable. I know I would have been upset had it bee handled in my town as insensitively as it seemed to be. The good thing is that in a week’s time we will all have moved on to a new uproar! :-) Thank you for stopping by!

  3. Awful, but er, I’ve stopped worrying about the life of trees … Wait! … Only because of the waste we do with paper. Who else noticed about the change in the weather? It’s hot today when it’s not supposed to be.

    Anyhow, way to go with grooming the oak tree. I’m sure you’ll educate every (future) residents of your house about the signifance of that tree. Tell them about the numbers, it’s impressive! :D Hehehe. Can you imagine the oak tree being resilient for a very very long time, and your house become a tourist spot? Hehehe :D

    What about the shuttle again? i forgot. I don’t really get that much of fuss about it. I mean not to that extent that a lot of people goes overtly excited about it. Sorry, I just don’t esp. I don’t just go to “one direction” where everyone’s at.

    • You’re so funny! I do think the hype was a bit much, Rommel. I think that the crowds and all the jubilation over moving the shuttle got a little out of hand for me, too. I suppose the aspect that fascinated me, though, was the engineering that had to go into such a move. Removing power lines? I will see it in its final home.

      Our tree is special. My husband told me this morning he’s sure it’s at least 100 years old–I should have consulted him before writing! Our home is old, and I would imagine one day it will be torn down to build new. Today people put such huge homes on these lots. I see trees sacrificed for what I think of us as monstrous homes, so that makes me wonder. I think I’ll just not think about that today! :-)

      This new surge of heat is ridiculous…and my house would be a lot hotter without my tree! See? We need those trees! Thanks so much for stopping by. I really enjoy your point of view. You have a great sense of humor!

  4. I love trees. When I living in New York, I would retreat to a local park with huge trees, and meditate or simply relax next to my trees. I even named them. :) I lived in an apt building and I was a lucky tenant because my apt had 6 windows facing the street and five of them had trees in front of them. I would see bird nests in my window sill, squirrels trying to get into my kitchen ( I lived on the 4th floor), and I enjoyed privacy as the trees shielded my apt from adjacent buildings. This was a treat for a city dweller. One day, I went to work, and when I came home ALL trees were gone! I believe the excuse was the trees were damaging a structure of the building. Needless to say I was very sad as I had enjoyed those trees for over 20 years.

    Enjoyed your post! :)

    • Oh my goodness, Marie. That would have been a tremendous shock! You must have felt both exposed–the lack of privacy–and felt a loss of connection with nature. I’m sure in Oregon you have lovely trees in abundance! I think that part of the story that most intrigues me with the tree removal in this episode of moving the shuttle is the difference in points of view and perspective. There seemed to be so much surprise that not everyone was satisfied with the promise of “new” trees. I’m sure in the grand scheme of it all this isn’t a huge problem, but urban blight in that area is significant, and the trees were one way to soften the hardscape. It will be decades before any trees mature, I’d think. Thank you for sharing your New York experience. I can only imagine what a rude and startling decision that had to be! I watch neighbors sometimes just butcher their trees in the pruning. They’ll cut them back to nothing and although the growth returns, I wonder that they don’t find the trees deformity unsettling in the process. Apparently we are not all the same in our view of what a tree has to offer! Thanks for stopping by, Marie. Have a great day.

  5. Debra, we probably saw more of the shuttle being moved on UK TV than ou would have if you’d gone down to see it. :-) We even heard about the trees being removed which I thought very sad.

    I love your oak tree and can understand how much its shade must mean to you in our climate. My equivalent is a big ash tree which is across the yard from our bathroom window in Wales. I wrote a post about it early in my blogging career which you might enjoy.
    http://perpetually-in-transit.blogspot.com/2011/03/tree-for-all-seasons.html

    • How interesting that clear “over your way” you had that much coverage of the shuttle? My goodness. I was interested, but I don’t think I imagined it as a “world wide” event. As some people say, “It must have been a slow news week.” I think perhaps some of the focus was on the engineering of moving it at all. I know I can’t really grasp the scale of just how big it is and was surprised at how many more trees were cut down this past weekend when they realized they’d underestimated some of the route openings.

      I’ll read your early post! I love trees–I guess we all really do–and “ours” do become a special part of our landscaping and mean more than just shade. They seem to offer a little piece of sanctuary, too. Thank you so much for stopping by today. I always enjoy hearing from you from your lovely home so far away! :-)

  6. Hi Debra, I love how you have linked the shuttle and your tree and then the cutting down of trees. A beautiful if not bitter sweet post. It’s lovely that you take such good care of your tree.
    And an evergreen oak, I had no idea they existed! Mind you that’s probably not saying much as my knowledge of trees isn’t great, something I should remedy!

    • I’m glad to hear from you, Claire. I’m sure you have had a wonderful holiday. We are homebound for a while in order to take care of things at home that may be a little neglected after a busy summer…and that includes our oak tree. I also picked up kind of an interesting book on oaks and I’m enjoying it very much. Trees, like all of nature, really, have some interesting attributes, don’t they. Our oak badly needed a haircut! :-)

  7. I really hate to see old tree go. We had a beautiful oak tree in the back of my father-in-laws house. The tree covered a very large portion of his back yard and provided a shady place for the grandchildren to play. When we sold the house after he died, we ran into difficulties selling the house because of the tree. It was very close to the house and most people wanted to cut it down. The city wouldn’t let them as it was some sort of protected tree (can’t tell you what kind of oak it was). After we sold the house, we found out that the new owners cut the tree down without going through proper channels. I guess they decided to plead ignorance. I still think fondly of the tree and the many days that my children played beneath it.

    • I feel sad to hear this story, Catherine! It is true we identify with the trees and it’s hard to think of someone cavalierly just cutting one down. We’ve experienced the same in our neighborhood. The “pleading ignorance” is really upsetting, isn’t it?

    • I know what you mean about upsetting the foliage in a tree and perhaps disturbing wildlife. We found two large squirrel nests, fortunately empty, in our oak. Trees do have different needs for optimum health. We don’t give all of them haircuts, but the oak stands to be destroyed in a bad windstorm if we don’t thin it carefully. It can be kind of a big responsibility, actually! :-)

  8. I have had many favorite trees that my forester father cut down. :) glad you are working to keep such a treasure around.

    • I caught on to what you said the other day about your dad and his “tree cutting” history! It’s all about our different perspectives, isn’t it? I hate to see a tree cut down, but I’m not unaware that there are times it needs to happen. I just want to hold onto mine! :-)

  9. As you might imagine, we are tree huggers here on the Cutoff and were in our old house as well. Tom once paid an exorbitant amount of money to move a pine that the girls had given him for Father’s Day when they were very little. It needed to move to make way for a new garage. He had it moved, watered and nurtured it, and it lived to grow some more – until the electric company came in and topped it when we weren’t looking. It is still growing there, almost thirty years later, though its top is a bit awkward.

    Debra, your Coast Live Oak is majestic! From the size of the trunk and the professional involved in the pruning, as well as the base, I’m wondering if it isn’t much, much older than your house.

    • That’s quite a story about Tom moving the tree the pine! Wow! That’s a wonderful story. Yes, you are indeed tree huggers! Ha! I love it. You know, Penny, I think the tree is older than I quoted. After I posted my husband reminded me of a photo I hadn’t recalled in which we think the tree was already good sized –an old photo of the house. I really don’t know, but you’re probably right. I think I was erring on the side of caution not wanting to exaggerate! :-) Thanks for the nudge in probably a more accurate direction, Penny!

  10. Lovely to see Darwin happily cruising along in the grass. That is such a shame regarding those trees. Unbelievable how some organisations are able to get away with blue murder yet here, I have a noxious tree and I can’t get permission to have it cut down. I agree it will take years for the new trees to grow and become as magnificent as those already well established (and on death row!) Love your tree though. It’s enormous and it’s luck to be in safe hands! xx

    • Thanks for weighing in on the tree situation, Charlie. I love your comment that they are “death row.” Perfect–(and wish I’d thought of that. Ha!). I have a tree or two that I don’t care for very much, also. They are on the property lines and the neighbors don’t take care of them at all…so we end up doing what we can, and they aren’t really our responsibility. We have strict ordinances against taking out trees without a permit, so most of us play by the rules. I wish everyone did! :-)

  11. Yep – I’ve been wondering about you posting about the shuttle’s journey. After all, you did cover the travels of a rock through the streets. ;) interesting the way your weaved together trimming your tree and the remove of trees along Endeavor route. Well done Debra!

    • I wasn’t sure if I should even mention all the controversy about the Space Shuttle’s needs and the tree removal, Frank, but when I felt myself supervising my oak tree, I felt so sorry for the people I’d heard speak of their personal sadness at the trees lost to their city. Thanks for stopping by…I’ll be back with more Endeavor talk when I go see it in the museum. By then everyone ought to be tired of the whole topic, I’m assuming! :-)

      • Those of us outside of LA may not have known about the trees – so thanks for mentioning it. …. BTW – the Space Shuttle (IMO) is still a high-interest topic.

  12. This blogosphere is uncanny, Debra: I was considering a tree hugging post myself this evening. Sometimes these great life forms have a way of reminding you of the scale of things, don’t they?

  13. What an amazing tree you have Debra!
    I’m looking forward to your eventual Endeavour post- it must be an incredible sight and size. Although I would not be happy to suddenly discover that mature trees just had to go

  14. I am thinking WOW! To actually have an oak tree grow and then have to trim it in your backyard. They are such strong trees that make such a statement with their roots, their tree trunk and their leaves. They just don’t grow where I live so whenever I see one i think oh WOW!. Lovely and informative post. I love how you weave the connections together between such diverse but such relevant topics. ~Thea

  15. Debra, I adore trees! My father was a forester with the Minnesota DNR, and our family just grew up appreciating trees. The past two summers here in Oak Park have been relatively dry ones, and the drought has affected the ancient oaks and maples. Many of my favorite mature neighborhood trees received what I call “The Mark of Saruman” — white spray-painted symbols labeling that tree for the village woodcutters, and the woodcutters have been very busy.

    I mourn the lost of these ancient trees, and I think often of the Ent March against the works of Saruman. Professor Tolkien plainly understood both the sentimental and environmental benefits of the trees. Thank you so much for this post — I’m inspired to put on my Tree Advocate Hat right now and go back to my own post to honk about this topic!

  16. Dear Debra, my favorite tree while growing up was an apple tree that stood between the driveway and the front right-hand corner of the house. It had a thick limb that grew horizontal to the ground and so I’d climb that tree and sit on that limb and wile away the day, reading. Thank you for bringing this memory back to me, I think I’ll post about that tree and an incident between a young friend and I that took place in that tree. Peace.

  17. Fantastic Oak you have in your garden. Such a shame to hear about all the other trees that were cut down to allow the passage of the Space Shuttle.

    I am blessed with a beautiful Rowan tree in my back yard – you can read baout it at here.

    • Thanks for the link to your beautiful Rowan, Martin. I’m not familiar with that tree! But it appears to be a wonderful haven for a large variety of birds. I find so much relaxation in spending time bird watching. You, too, I see! :-)

  18. I’m with you Debra. I just didn’t have the energy to face the crowds and traffic jams to watch the shuttle driving down the street – but I wondered whether you’d gone! I know a few people who parked their cars some distance away and rode in on their bikes. Only way to do it.

    LOVE the tree in your back yard. What a beauty. Isn’t it important to prune trees? It’s like giving a poodle a haircut.

  19. Pingback: I may be wildlife friendly, but I did NOT invite the skunks to live under our house. | breathelighter

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