Dealing With Change

by Todd Fulginiti

I felt pretty bad.  Weak. Very tired.  A little nauseated.  Nowadays that’s grounds for a Covid test, but it was still morning so I went about my daily, home routine; hoping to shake it off.  

A few hours later I took a break to lay down on the couch and scroll Facebook for few minutes. I took a look at the “memories”, past posts that resurface on their anniversary. When I did, I realized what my problem was.

It was March 9- the day they cut the trees down.  

It made me physically sick back when it happened, and years later, I still get caught off-guard by the subconscious, emotional stain that it left on me. I know- people cut down trees all the time- so what’s the big deal?

These were not just any trees to me.

My house backs up to a small cemetery.  Behind the fence is small graveyard where some of the town’s early European settlers are buried.  It was established in the 1740’s.

At some point, about 16 evergreen trees were planted. I’m not sure when. It may have been mid-1740’s or quite a bit later. But the trees were definitely old, and they made good on their chance to become enormous. Fitted together closely yet comfortably in their yard, they stood about 8 stories high. The view from our place was like having front row seats to a National Geographic show. Birds would converse with each other from across the trees. Squirrels would do their crazy stunts, putting human acrobats to shame. It was one of the things I liked best about where we live. If my life was Avatar, those big pines were my Hometrees.

Several years ago, coming home from a walk, we noticed the yellow ribbon on some of the pines. We had heard that some were going to be trimmed. Having experienced this euphemism before, I was nervous that they would be butchered. But as I got into my car the next morning, the giant machines were already in place, and I realized they would be coming down. All at once.

Over the next two days, my front row seats switched from National Geographic to the Horror Channel as I watched them practically clear-cut the space, like a swath of the Amazon.  

It was loud. It looked horrible. It felt the same.

I heard their rationale for cutting down the trees and I didn’t buy it. They said the trees were rotting. There was no evidence of that. I think it had to do with the landowners protecting themselves against a remote liability. Either way, it was no good.

I was so upset by the whole situation that I became physically sick for about three days.  Every year since, some sort of mild illness or weird discomfort returns to me on the anniversary of the tree cutting.  Wrapped up in my own day-to-day activities, I’m almost never aware that the anniversary is approaching.  Then, once I’m feeling sick or somehow off-kilter, I see a reminder and realize the date’s history.

In the years since the razing, I’ve learned new ways to enjoy the land behind my house. Despite only a few smaller tress remaining, it still serves as a peaceful greenspace for rabbits, birds, squirrels and humans. I go there to stretch after a run, and to see unusual mushrooms when the rain ends. The place isn’t what it used to be, but it still has value and I continue to stay in touch with it. I accept that the place has changed, and I deal with it as it is now.

There isn’t another choice. Whether we’re talking about our relationship with trees, a person, a group, our job, the environment, ourselves, or anything else; we have to acknowledge changes. We need to view things and people as they are, not as they were, and move on.

If the changes have caused us pain, we might involuntarily revisit those feelings in one form or another. That’s ok. Acknowledging them helps us keep things in check. Whether the change was good or bad, life goes on and we need to as well.

I still miss those trees. The lesson I learned from them isn’t one I wanted them to teach me, but it’s valuable nonetheless.

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