Sunday, April 25, 2010

`The Proper Spirit'

We returned from the library to the sound of modernity – that is, a chainsaw – screaming behind the house. A pickup truck was backed into the driveway almost to the gate and the bed was full of green. Unannounced, our landlord had decided to cut down the Northern magnolias growing on the north side of the house against the neighbor’s wooden fence. I don’t understand his reasoning: “They’re nothing but weeds. Now you’ll get some sun in here.” True enough, but we have no windows on the north side, and he takes suspiciously enthusiastic pleasure in wielding his toy. My 9-year-old told him:

“That’s a good way to celebrate Earth Day.”

I’m going to miss the glossy deep-green leaves that turn buttery yellow before falling, last year’s robin’s nest and the microclimate under its foliage that encourages mushrooms but nothing green. I have no illusions about magnolias – a scrappy, opportunistic softwood that thrives in lousy urban environments. Wind-borne seeds, with the aid of much newly available sunlight, will soon replace our magnolia with true weeds. I’m with Richard Wilbur (from “A Wood,” Walking to Sleep, 1969):

“Given a source of light so far away
That nothing, short or tall, comes very near it,
Would it not take a proper fool to say
That any tree has not the proper spirit?
Air, water, earth and fire are to be blended,
But no one style, I think, is recommended.”


zmkc said...

Our neighbour chopped down a magnolia on our adjoining fence 15 years ago - so that they could play ball games more easily. I still miss it. I suspect your landlord is a bit lacking in the soul department. As are our neighbours.

Reed Sanders said...

"Would it not take a proper fool to say
That any tree has not the proper spirit?"

That is lovely, thanks. I have to find some Wilbur somewhere amid the clutter of our shelves.