The fat cat who roams the subdivision and looks like a tiger cub – suddenly ran to the Dogwood tree and swiftly climbed up its winter bark, reaching for a high branch with the impressive agility the animal is known for. She sat there on top of the tree, glancing far into the street. This seemingly simple sight felt so surreal, for few moments the rest of the street in front of me disappeared, all its houses, and cars. I just witnessed a wild feline on an arid tree, in its natural habitat, somewhere in African Savanna.
When the cat started to climb down, my gaze followed her careful, slow descend. As she reached the ground, I abruptly came back to reality. I saw the terrible orange spray paint markings near the roots of the tree. Markings that I was trying to unsee from the day before – when I had seen them being made by a private professional – an arborist.
My heart pounded. After spotting the cat, now I knew of one more who had something to do with that Dogwood – one of the most beautiful I have seen, just perfect in each unique appearance it assumes every season.
I see that tree everyday, belonging to another house, standing in all its glory, a little to the left where the border of my front yard starts. If the tree were just few feet on the right from where it originally is, no arborist would have ever come near it.
We often destroy something grown on the land thinking that it is not our own. Sometimes we do that precisely because we think that we own it. Both these types of owning, and not owning, make us unfortunate. We divide the land, distribute it among ourselves and live in the illusion of being masters of these pieces of lands as if they become detached from the rest of the earth and its ecosystem the moment we claimed our ownership.
However, the sun shines and raindrops fall on all these illusionary separate pieces of land uniformly. Chipmunks, rabbits and snails straddle all borders when they come out to forage. Wind circulates and birds fly above them just seamlessly. Nature’s landscape remain continuous, and belongs to no one. Earth therefore, laughs on us. Sometimes she cries.
In her hauntingly beautiful poem, “The Moment”, Margaret Atwood expressed:
The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,
And yet here we are, claiming to possess some ground, and a patch of lawn on it. Ah, the all important lawn! For its perfect appearance, sometimes we even go to the extent of bringing down a flowering wonder of a tree.
I don’t know when the arborist is coming again. It has been quite a few days since those orange colored markings were made. They have started to fade away. But, the threat of the removal of the tree has not. Every morning I look outside with a racing heart, lest I find nothing but void in its spot…No, the Dogwood is still there. I breathe an unsure sigh of relief.
They are determined. What seems inevitable is something I shudder even to imagine. I stare at the Dogwood with desperate hope. Tiny buds have already arrived on it. If only the tree blooms a little early this year…To see it blushing may change a heart…What if it was the last Dogwood tree in the world, would it then be so disposable?
The cat was just an unexpected addition to the long list of all who are blissfully unaware that their world will soon be a lot emptier. If they knew, they would want that appointment to be cancelled, forever.
Robins, Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Mockingbirds and many, many more birds perch on it to to sing, to rest, to feed, to nest. The Dogwood is one of the reasons why the street is visited by wonderful butterflies and bees. In fall squirrels make rounds of its canopy for endless hours. In the cozy, round bed around it, the Crocuses and Daffodils have already come for this spring. With the tree, they will leave too.
Thankfully there is a human in this list too – except she is just as unaware and pure, as all the above, and like them, she also doesn’t speak much. One year old Naomi. This cutest ever toddler lives across the street.
She has just learnt to walk and is ecstatic every day to spend afternoons simply running around in her front yard. After all, she has just started to discover the world – which as of now is made of just a small part of this street. Today, I saw her showing something to her babysitter. Lifting her tender little hand, she pointed a chubby finger towards the Dogwood and showed a bright red thing she had spotted on it. A cardinal was sitting there. Probably her first sighting of a bird sitting on a tree.
The sacred awe in her eyes was the most glorious thing about being human I have seen in a long time. The curiosity that must have arisen in her still developing awareness is unimaginable. A mind that is absolutely unsullied, that doesn’t even know her own name, would be a portal to eternity – what profoundness it must have registered!
Her precious acknowledgement of the soon to be gone tree made me delighted and deeply sad in the same moment. It may not be the last Dogwood of the world, but it sure is the first in the world, for her. She deserves to see the buds opening and the tree slowly transforming into an ethereal spectacle to behold. She must get a chance to know that this world she has just arrived into, is not without magic. Will we give her this chance?
Article ©2022 Gyaneshwari Dave
Excerpt of “The Moment” by Margaret Atwood,
From Eating Fire (Virago, 1998), © Margaret Atwood 1998
Feature Image: Jacob Nordby on Pixabay