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2007 04 17
A Tree Falls in the Junction

A week ago, the final connection between earth and sky in our corner of the Junction was severed when a crew from Weller Tree service arrived at the behest of the City to cut down the giant silver maple that stood at the corner of Gilmour and Vernon. With a practiced combination of care and efficiency, the crew from Weller spent half a day dismantling what had taken a century to grow. As the crew worked at the canopy, dendritic limbs spun and swayed in a final ballet before descending to earth.


According to Frazer's Golden Bough, trees are among the most appropriate subjects of worship. They are protectors, compasses, and containers of secrets and souls. Frazer writes,
If trees are animate, they are necessarily sensitive and the cutting of them down becomes a delicate surgical operation, which must be performed with as tender a regard as possible for the feelings of the sufferers, who otherwise may turn and rend the careless or bungling operator. When an oak is being felled, 'it gives a kind of shriekes or groanes, that may be heard a mile off, as if it were the genius of the oake lamenting.' The Ojebways 'very seldom cut down green or living trees, from the idea that it puts them to pain, and some of their medicine-men profess to have heard the wailing of trees under the axe.' Trees that bleed and utter cries of pain or indignation when they are hacked or burned occur very often in Chinese books, even in Standard Histories. Old peasants in some parts of Austria still believe that forest-trees are animate, and will not allow an incision to be made form the bark without special cause; they have heard from their fathers that the tree feels the cut not less than a wounded man his hurt. In felling a tree they beg its pardon. (from "The Worship of trees")


The crew loaded the largest of limbs into the back of a flatbed truck, and fed smaller branches into the maw of a chipper that ground bark, heartwood and sap into fragments that, ideally, will be spread into protective skirts around newly planted trees elsewhere. Despite the destruction, there was a hypnotic quality in watching this work, the equipment large and loud enough to subdue even a hundred foot tree.


As the tree came down, large hollowed-out cross-sections appeared, confirming the tree's precarious condition. During the winter several of its branches had crashed down in high winds. But a large hollowed bowl in the tree's heart had housed squirrels and perhaps raccoons, and was big enough that even I was temped to crawl inside, to listen to the tree's deep dying voice. By afternoon only the roots remained, an incision reaching into the earth and a buried reflection of vanished branches.


As part of a program to maintain Toronto's urban forest, upon request The City of Toronto will plant a free tree on the road allowance fronting any residential property. Call 416-338-TREE for yours.
[email this story] Posted by Amy Lavender Harris on 04/17 at 10:01 AM

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