Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Grieving a loss

To me, a tree represents two things, life and permanence. It's always difficult for me to see trees cut down in the city, particularly trees that have taken 50-60 years to mature. No trees have meant more to me than the trees of my old neighborhood at 3312 N.Keystone. There were only five houses on my block and eight mature trees, that isn't counting the leafy roof that lined School Street, the "Lost Boys" crab apple tree in next door apartment building's courtyard, or the bushes you could play hide and seek in, these trees on Keystone formed an impenetrable canopy, a boundary between the sidewalk and the sky. The way a space is organized has an effect on the people that find themselves within that space. I cannot imagine living in a suburban tract housing development without trees, or on a busy street where trees are a nuisence or not allowed to flourish. I owe a great deal of who I am to those formative years playing on my block. The way the urban space happened to be organized, with the trees and the J-shape of the block was serendipitious. The trees created an urban Secret Garden for play.

Today, however, I grieve the loss of the tallest tree on my old block. I rode past the 3300 block of Keystone and found the remains of the tree which my frends and I carved our names. The tree that I carved the names, Caitlin Bryce and Kimberly Brown, my first loves. The tree that quickly came to mind when reading "The Giving Tree" to Liam. All the people and friends from my past on Keystone have gone, the buildings, fences, garages, the names on doorbells are different, but the one thing that gave permanence to my memories, of what it felt like to live on my block, were the trees, and now they are gone too, and so my memories will fade into a mist. And I am reminded of the fragility of life.

If you want to see what I'm talking about go to google maps click on the streetview of 4000 W. School Street go west (straight), turn north(right) onto the 3300 block of Keystone and see for yourself. Just imagine it with at least five more mature trees planted.

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