Tag Archive | Trees

Bent Tree

IMG_4674 B&W (800x533)This morning, I delivered a devotional and invocation for the regular meeting of the Chatham County Commission.  This is the text of my reflections and prayer.

A few weeks ago, I went out on a steamy July morning to be a part of a group of volunteers with the Savannah Tree Foundation.  Our task was to tend the trees which were planted at the intersection of the Truman Parkway and Whitefield Avenue when the Truman Extension project was completed.  I was pleased to see Commissioner Stone among our group of volunteers, too.  As the day became too hot for us to work any more, I was at the southwest corner of the intersection, and I noticed a particular young tree.  This tree had obviously come unmoored from the stake that was supposed to support its thin trunk.  Then, it had been damaged, perhaps by a mower, or maybe by the weather.  Whatever hit it, the tree was bent over at 90 degrees, so that the trunk was parallel to the ground.  As a dutiful volunteer, I reported the damaged tree to the director of the Tree Foundation, Karen Jenkins, who was supervising our group of volunteers.  I expected she would make a note of the damaged tree so she could remember to get someone to come out and remove it.

But that is not what she did.  Instead, she said she had seen that tree, and pointed out that it was still alive.  It had branches growing out of its bent-over trunk which were healthy and leafy.  And the top of the tree had already turned around and started growing heavenward again.  She said that she imagined that someday, people would look at that tree and think it is the most fascinating tree in the whole intersection.

As soon as she said that, I knew what I had done.  I had looked at that tree and only seen it as damaged.  But Karen had looked at it and seen it as a survivor.  She allowed herself to become fascinated by its strength, its endurance, and its ability to right itself and keep on growing toward the light.  She saw its unique potential to contribute to the whole scene, to stand out, specifically because it was not like all the other trees.

I’ve started to wonder since that morning whether I do the same thing to people.  I look at people who don’t conform to my ideas about what is normal, and I see them as damaged.  I pity them, or I dismiss them, or I otherwise try to have them removed.  And I wonder if I need to look instead more often through a lens of compassion, to see how those people who don’t conform are fascinating survivors who have a unique and important contribution they can make.

I don’t know all of the business you commissioners will have before you this morning.  But I do know that, at its root, all of that work has to do with the people who live and work together in our county.  And I hope you will be able to approach your work with the compassion Karen had for that unique, fascinating tree.

Will you pray with me?

Holy God, you are the source of all of life, of all beauty and joy, of all grace and compassion.  We thank you for your presence in our world in all of the ways we see every day:  in the beauty of this part of the world, in the abundance of sunshine and water, of dirt and trees, of opportunities and creative ideas, of care and support shared among neighbors.  I thank you for the people in this room today:  the Commissioners, the staff, the people with business before the Commission, and the observers, and for the enormous resources they represent.

I pray today for this meeting, that everyone here might feel your presence.  I pray that that work which happens here today will show the best of good governance.  I pray that the resources which the people here make decisions about may be used for the good of all citizens, especially those who are poor, vulnerable, and powerless.  I pray that power might be used well, that wisdom might be applied in everything which is discussed, and that compassion and grace will guide the discussion and debate.

Show us your glory, Holy God, and bring us your wisdom and your peace, so that together we may do the work you would have us do, joining with you to bring about your vision of justice, peace, joy, and beauty.  I pray all of this in your holy name.  Amen.

[Note:  I went back to that intersection yesterday to try to get a photo of the tree, and I was disappointed to see it had been removed.  I was disappointed not only because of the loss of yet another tree from our community (click here and here and especially here to see what I think about tree removal).  I was also disappointed because of the loss of what that particular, fascinating tree could have shown us as it grew up.]

Acts of Religious Freedom

IMG_5401 (800x533)Today, as I was sitting on my back patio having lunch, I looked up at the dying live oak tree near the fence.  The tree is in sad shape, as far as trees go.  A few years ago, not long after we moved into the house, we noticed that it seems to have started dying from the top.  We are not sure if lightning hit it or some plague of insects, bacteria, genetic malfunction, or simple old age got to it.  But the ends of the thick trunks are now splintered.  The woodpeckers and flickers have gouged holes in those trunks as they hunt for protein while dropping a shower of shavings to float in the bird bath below.  The lower branches have gradually died, ending up as lichen-covered sticks which fall on our back lawn as gifts for the dog to chew.  But the middle branches of the tree have endured somehow, and what I noticed today was that they are now covered in blossoms.

They called to mind the oak blossoms which covered our live oak trees every spring when I was growing up in Northern California.  Our yard had four large, strong, healthy trees:  two live oaks and two deciduous oaks of some indeterminate variety.  Each year, small strands of green started to form on the trees, then fell to the ground as they turned brown.  The strands had small nobs on them, not much bigger than cracker crumbs, strung like tiny nuggets along a thread, and their color was no different than the stems.  My parents kept calling them blossoms.  That was absurd to me.  I knew what blossoms were.  The lilies in our yard would explode with vibrant reds, yellows, oranges, and whites; the camelias would open their soft, round, pink blooms; the irises would stand tall with their bearded heads of purple; the roses would open their poetry-inspiring buds, and wherever those marvels didn’t show off, there was room for daffodils and tulips and pansies and petunias to fill in.  Those plants all had blossoms to be proud of.  But the mighty oaks, many times bigger in stature and deeper in root than any of those others, only produced those spindly, weak, little threads of green-drying-to-brown crumbs.  I still imagine the other plants and bushes in the yard were laughing at the mighty oak trees when blooming season arrived.

And now, around here, I hesitate to imagine what the magnolias say when the oaks aren’t listening.  But still, sitting on my back patio enjoying my lunch, I realized that the blooms lend a beauty and a grace to still living, yet dying, oak tree.  They are plentiful enough to make a visual impact, and from the distance across the width of my yard, they rustle like curtains in the breeze.  While the color isn’t spectacular, the gold-glowing green freshens up the place a bit while we wait for the trees, bushes, and plants to fill out with their new leaves.

I’ve been thinking a lot today, too, about the “Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act” which is making its way through the Georgia State Legislature this season.  They had to call it the Georgia act because it’s not just the Georgia Legislature considering the bill; variants of this same bill are making their way through a number of state legislatures this year.  The need for this bill, as well as the language of the bill, was conceived by a national organization called the Faith and Freedom Coalition.  Supporters of the bill have come forward with all manner of dramatic language to say that the bill is necessary to protect religious people, who, they allege, are under serious threat of persecution throughout the nation.  Some politicians have been more clear: they are promoting the bill so that private businesses would have legal grounds to refuse to serve people who are LGBTQ.

There are so many thoughts in my mind about this bill and the agenda of those promoting it.  I have my gut reactions:  I am repulsed that we are having a serious conversation about how to codify bigotry, and I am scandalized that some think  religion is a useful tool to do that.  Stepping back from those reactions, though, I also wonder why a business would want to refuse any paying customer (for a great story about that from Idaho, see here); I am afraid that is one of those questions to which I do not really want to hear the answer.  I think about a colleague of mine in Texas, who recently wrote that their version of the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” would nullify a 15-year-old act that was crafted after a broad process involving a wide range of political and religious leaders.  That makes me wonder why our state needs organizers from a national organization representing a narrow segment of the population, which is far from representative of the range of religious perspectives in our state, to set our legislative priorities and to write our legislation for us.  I wonder if there is any way for the cooler heads of more seasoned politicians to prevail in our legislature and governor’s administration, where the conversation is dominated by the voices of radically conservative Republicans.  And I think about my favorite line from one pastor’s testimony against the bill:  “is there a more religiously free people on God’s green earth than Georgia Baptists?”

But I also think about my live oak tree and its blossoms.  I am the pastor of a congregation which I like to describe as radically tolerant.  We have some members who align on many issues with the political right, and some members who align on many issues with the political left.  We have members and friends in our congregation who are gay and lesbian, and we have members who do not support extending marriage, ordination, or other civil and ecclesiastical privileges to people who are LGBTQ.  But we manage to get along most of the time, and more than getting along, we manage to exercise our religious freedoms together.  We pray with and for each other, we visit each other in the hospital, and we bring casseroles when we think someone might need them.  We break bread together, both in the context of worship and in some really great covered dish lunches.  And we serve our community together:  we provide food and housing for homeless people, we tutor children from our local public school, we mentor Boy Scouts, we build ramps for people under Hospice care, and we welcome a whole bunch of different community groups to use our buildings.

Such a tolerant community of people committed to a common ministry and mission seem like my live oak trees.  When I was growing up, such communities were strong and healthy; now, they seem like they are dying because folks seem to prefer to live in enclaves of people who agree with them on controversial issues.  In fact, I have heard supporters of LGBTQ rights talk about their support for bills like the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Their reasoning goes that they want to be able to easily identify those businesses who do not agree with them so they can stay away.  But if we all retreat into our own enclaves of like-mindedness, when do people who disagree encounter each other?  When does a traditional-marriage bakery owner witness the love-struck excitement of the gay couple who is ordering the cake for their wedding?  When does the progressive activist find out that the local dry cleaner with the faded Romney-Ryan sticker on his bumper proudly displays in his shop the photos and certificates of appreciation from years and years of sponsorships of the youth soccer league?

In this metaphor, the vocal activists like the Faith and Freedom Coalition might be compared to the plants and bushes that produce the bold, brassy lilies, irises, camelias, roses, and all the rest.  They quote Sarah Palin on the front page of their website, and you can’t get much more bold and brassy than that.  I can imagine them, perhaps unfairly, mocking institutions like my congregation, large, old trees with our tiny, plain blossoms of church suppers and after-school tutoring programs.  Our blooms do not command as much attention; they have less splashy color, less noticeable shapes; they are less outspoken, less dramatic, and get far less attention from the politicians or the media.

But our blossoming acts of religious freedom have their own beauty and grace.  They may seem small and spindly, but taken together, they have a significant impact.  And they freshen up the place where we are, filling in when the splashier, more dramatic plants and bushes fail.  Life in a community of radical tolerance is not always easy; some days, I worry that the whole thing is going to fall over dead, becoming nothing more than fodder for the woodpeckers.  But on other days, I notice that even when the breeze starts to blow and our blossoms rustle, they look like a curtain dancing with the wind, and I think such places where religious freedom is enacted are the only hope our culture has.

I hope our representatives will have the good sense to vote no on the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Update:  So this happened later on Thursday.  Once an anti-discrimination amendment to the bill passed, the supporters no longer supported it.

Grandpa Hamilton’s Forest

IMG_2861 (800x533)In 1907, my great grandfather bought a farm in the Sequatchie Valley in Tennessee. He had lived in the Sequatchie Valley all his life; in fact, his family had farmed in that valley since his own great grandfather settled there long before Tennessee became a state. Grandpa Hamilton had deep roots in farming, and even deeper roots in that part of the world.

The Hamiltons were not wealthy; he bought the land only after he sold another farm which had been given to him when he was married 18 years earlier. I would love to know who gave him a farm as a wedding present, but I don’t. Once he bought his new farm, he built a small house on it for his family to live in. There are three rooms in the house, plus a kitchen and a hallway, and off the side porch, there is another small room. In the back, there is a small building which covers the well and a small room behind it. I am sure there was an outhouse in the vicinity at one time, because there is no way to meet those needs in the house. There is a shed out front and a barn a hundred yards or so to the north of the house. In 1907, he had six children, ranging in age from 2 to 16; two more children were born in that house before his first wife died in 1916. I have no idea how ten people all got along in those four rooms, plus a kitchen.

Although the house is not large, Grandpa Hamilton did not seem to skimp on the details. Every room in the main part of the house has a brick fireplace. The ceilings are high, and there are plenty of windows. There are porches on three sides, a few cabinets and a good-sized sink in the kitchen, and a crawl space underneath. There is asbestos siding on the outside, a hazard now but a quality material then, and a metal roof on the top, although those may have been added later.  The house was built to last a long time.

And it has lasted a long time. 107 years later, it is still standing. The porch floors have rotted in places, and one corner of the roof covering the front porch has caved in. The wallpaper is peeling to reveal the lath boards underneath. Some of the faces on the fireplaces are crumbling, most of the windows are broken, some of the doors don’t close all the way, and the floor is a bit uneven. But the house is still there.

Besides building that simple but sturdy house, though, Grandpa Hamilton did a remarkable thing. With roots as deep as his in that valley and in the business of farming, he knew the value of the land he owned. However, he set his house off the road a good bit, and around the house and between there and the road, he preserved several acres of trees. They were large trees of species native to that area: walnut, hickory, oak, cedar, and others. My dad wrote to me a few years ago recalling about his grandfather that “squirrels and birds thrived, and he allowed only very limited hunting when damage could be observed in the barn bins.”

Grandpa Hamilton and his sons mowed the weeds around the woodland, and they planted acres and acres of corn and other crops out back. But they left that land around the trees undisturbed. His grandson and great-grandsons who still farm the land have kept up that practice, and the woodland has remained so thick that it is impossible for a person to penetrate. It is much like I imagine most of the land in that part of the world looked before people came along to cut down the trees, hack out the undergrowth, till the soil, and sow their crops.

For the past 30 years or so, no one has cleared the brush from around the house, either. And while Grandpa Hamilton’s trees and their offspring have almost overtaken the house now, with some of the trunks so close that they seem to climb the exterior walls, I wonder if the trees he preserved are part of what have kept that simple building standing for so long. The unused houses and barns up and down the valley which are not surrounded with trees show their vulnerability to the wind and the rain. They have roofs and walls which are caving in and frames which are leaning. But protected from the wind and all but the heaviest of rains, Grandpa Hamilton’s house still stands in the forest he set aside out of his farmland.

Grandpa Hamilton was no progressive. From what my dad tells me, he called Franklin Roosevelt one of the worst things to happen to this country. I can just imagine my father as a young boy listening as his grandfather repeated that strongly-held opinion to him, loudly, over and over again; he would not have been the first old man who held tightly to his view of the world as the world changed around him. But he was ahead of his time in at least this one regard: he valued nature, and he worked to preserve it, even if that meant giving up some of his precious farmland.

In the suburban community where I live, I recently had a conversation with someone about trees. I have made my feelings about trees and the way they are treated in our suburban community known before. In this conversation, I talked about whether it would be possible to plant some new trees where some ancient but dead specimens of native magnolia, sweetgum, live oak, and hickory nut have recently been removed. The person I was talking with agreed that it would be good to replace the removed trees. But the varieties were another story. “Those trees are all messy,” she said. “They drop leaves, branches, and litter all over the yard. Maybe we can find some modern hybrids of those same kinds of trees. No one is going to want those trees around that they have to clean up after!”

And I was mystified. I wanted to scream: “They are trees; of course they drop leaves and branches. The leaves and branches can be removed, or even better, they can be chopped up and used to enhance the soil under the trees. That is the way those varieties of trees have thrived in our area for millions of years before we came along!” But I let my suburban sensitivities get the better of me, and I just smiled politely.

I think Grandpa Hamilton and I would have at least a few things in common.

The Maple

IMG_9134 (800x534)I really don’t know what to do with the ornamental maple tree in my front yard.

It is in the lawn near the curb, about equal distance from our driveway and the property line, and it was put there by the previous owner of the house.  The one time I met him, he proudly explained to me that he was really a country boy at heart.  One of his chief goals in designing his landscape was to ensure that, from the house, he could not see any of the neighbors’ roofs.  In a neighborhood where each house is about twelve to fifteen feet from the one next door, that is a quite a challenge.  He was supported in this goal by his father-in-law, or perhaps it was his stepfather, who owned a nursery.  He could get all the trees he wanted for free or cheap.  Within two weeks of moving in, we had nine trees removed from the property.  There were the four swamp cypress, which shove their knobby knees up from their roots, spreading in search of water when they are not planted in a swamp.  Those knees, several friends told us, were strong enough that they could crack a driveway and even disturb a slab foundation.  Since all four were within a few feet of our driveway or foundation, they had to go.  There was the enormous holly tree planted too close to the corner of the house and the two Bradford pears behind it, all of which hung over the house in a way that was not healthy for either the trees or the structure.  And there were the two ornamental maples in the back yard, which were so close to a cedar that they were being choked in both their roots and crowns.  They were never going to thrive there, the arborist told us; besides the obvious crowding, they were a non-native species which really needed a colder climate to thrive.  So away they went.

But even after the tree people did their work, there was still a small forest of oak, pine, palm, birch, cedar, and magnolia, along with at least four specimens of that same species of ornamental maple, crammed onto our average suburban lot.  Most of those trees are in the back yard near the fence, a safe distance from the house.  Only four trees pepper our front lawn:  the old river birch, a palm on the other side of the driveway, a healthy adolescent white oak, and the poor, struggling ornamental maple.

I ought to simply take it down, but the buzz among my neighbors is that, since it is planted between the water meter and the curb, the city would object to its removal.  I do not view that as an insurmountable problem, since everyone agrees that, if it should die, I would have no choice but to remove it.  I certainly have a few ideas about how to hasten its demise, but I also have a hard time vandalizing a poor tree, no matter how out-of-place it is, to the point of murder.  Each spring, I watch all of the trees in the front yard proclaim their message of life after death.  The river birch starts the process of announcing the new season, with its leaves coming out in March and April, about the same time as the blossoms burst with their bright green pollen as they fall on my cars, driveway, and front walk.  Then, the white oak leaves unfurl, changing over a period of a couple of weeks from light pink buds to the dark green, outstretched fingers of the full-grown leaves.  By May, though, the maple usually hasn’t done much; its plain branches remain bare.  And I start to hope:  maybe this year, a hard frost finally did it in.  Maybe its roots, which are planted so shallow that I can see them worming their way through the topsoil at its base, have finally withered.  Maybe a disease or fungus or some other fatal trauma has visited the maple, which has always seemed vulnerable to such things.  But no.  Each year, by late May, when the temperatures are really becoming unbearable for the northerners who live around here, a pitiful few seed pods start to appear and ripen, followed a week or two later by some small, pointed leaves.  The maple lives again, and my hope that I could cut it down after its unfortunate but inevitable death is once again dashed.

It lingers through the summer, not really doing anything interesting, never growing or spreading as much as the other trees on our street.  I have to dodge its spindly lower branches as I mow the lawn, and every once in a while, I have to trim a branch here and there which has been snapped by some wind storm or other force.  This past summer, my son conjured up a game in the front yard which involved taking a larger stick and banging it against the trunk of the ornamental maple, pretending to fight it or cut it down, I am not sure which, until the stick broke.  I might have encouraged that game with more enthusiasm than some of the other ones he played this year, since it played out one of my own fantasies.

But then, fall comes.  Each year, the river birch is the first to litter the lawn in a shower of bright yellow in late September or early October.  The oak follows soon after Halloween as its leaves turn to a dull yet rich orange that quickly and seamlessly becomes a dry brown.  The maple holds out, waiting for a chill to fill the air and tell it to go through its own process of death and preparation for rebirth.  Since we are so temperate around here, it seems like it will never get cold en0ugh to trigger the poor thing into its necessary rest.  And then, usually just after Thanksgiving, the air turns nippy for a day or two.  And the maple puts on a display that is almost overwhelming in its vibrancy.

That display happened this week.  One morning, my son walked out the front door, and I think I actually heard surprise take his breath away.  The sun was just coming up over the enormous live oaks at the end of the street, so the air was bright with that golden hue coveted by painters and photographers.  And with the leaves on the other trees already faded, the maple radiated in front of us.  He declared that it looked almost like it was on fire, and he was right.  It was glowing.  It was explosive.  It was brilliant, in the way that I imagine the appearance of God’s Holy Spirit was brilliant as it danced like tongues of fire over the heads of the disciples fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection.  It was breathtaking.

And it was confusing. What do I do with a tree like that?  Most of the time it is in the way.  It is out of place.  It is uninteresting.  It doesn’t fit in the bigger picture of my landscape or in the cycles of this climate.  And yet, for a few days each year, it shocks me again with the power of its beauty.  And I can’t just cut it down.

Tree Removal?!?

IMG_7388 (533x800)Last Friday, I was at home alone while my son was in school and my wife was at a conference.  I was painting the trim in our bedroom, a tedious task, but one which I did not want to have interrupted.  The dog became agitated, so I knew someone was probably coming to the door.  I looked out the window, and a man was sitting up in the back of a pickup truck which was driving slowly down the street.  He waved a friendly wave, and another man came up the driveway.  That man handed me a business card, pointed at the River Birch which stands a few yards outside my front door, and said, “Your tree here:  we’ll take it down, haul it away, grind up the stump, uhhh… three hundred dollars.”  He looked at me like he expected me to sing a Doxology at his offer to make the River Birch vanish as if it had never even been there.

I wasn’t sure what to say.  How does one respond to an unsolicited offer like this one?  I wanted to ask him with as much condescension as I could muster, “why would I want to remove a perfectly healthy, mature tree?”  I wanted to inform him, “I have seen tree after tree come down in this neighborhood; I am not going to let you destroy another one!”  I wanted to preach to him, “the world, and especially this part of this city, needs more trees, not fewer.”  I wanted to drive him away, not just from my driveway, but from my neighborhood as well, “what gives you the right to go around encouraging people to cut down perfectly healthy trees?”

Instead, I swallowed my righteous indignation and answered him with a bit more professional respect.  But only a bit.  “We might need a little trim, but we wouldn’t want to cut it down!”  He muttered something about trimming a few branches, I promised to talk with my wife about what we might do, and he and his colleagues continued down the street to spread their generous offer of cheap removal of healthy, mature trees.

I looked at the business card on the way into the house:  “B & C Tree and Lawn Service:  No Job Too Large or Small.”  There was nothing about the qualifications of the technicians who would be servicing the trees or the lawns which might be put under their care.  There was nothing about the number of years the owners had been doing this kind of work or the availability of references from satisfied clients.  There was only the promise that size does not, in fact, matter to them and the phone number to call to have my tree removed.

The encounter made me wonder:  why did the proprietors of B & C Tree and Lawn Service think it would be worth their time to make unsolicited offers to remove trees from our neighborhood?  And the answer is obvious:  because people in our neighborhood might want to get rid of their trees.  In a typical suburban neighborhood like ours, trees can easily be considered a problem.  Trees are not orderly or neat.  Trees drop leaves, twigs, and even whole branches.  Trees are home to birds and other fauna who make messes on clean cars.  Trees grow unevenly sometimes:  they droop over here, making us duck our heads, and they lean over there, making everything look a bit off-kilter.

Trees are opposed to the suburban ideal.  The suburbs were developed as a way for the middle class to escape the problems of urban neighborhoods while still avoiding the problems of real nature.  Real nature is disordered, unpredictable, even chaotic.  It does not conform to any ideals of balance or symmetry in design.  It does not follow any standards of behavior, and it does not respect clearly delineated boundaries of space.  Nature cannot understand the difference between a place which ought to be clean and a place which can be dirty, or a place which demands a lot of light and a place which should be shaded.  Nature just grows, and spreads, and then when it is done, it falls back and dies, only to grow again the next year.  Nature is problematic to anyone with an impulse to control, to bring order, or to keep some standards of neatness and cleanliness.  Nature is kind of like God in that way.

The impulse to control nature is one I understand, even if I do not believe it is in the long-term best interests of our community or our planet.  I was pleased to read a piece on the editorial page of the Savannah Morning News this morning written by Jerry Flemming, the City of Savannah’s Director of Parks, Trees, and Cemeteries.  In his column, Mr. Flemming spoke about the large population of fall webworms in our city this year.  Fall webworms are caterpillars which spin webs in trees.  The webs surround leaves, which the webworms then eat.  Once they have eaten all of the leaves inside their webs, they expand the webs to encompass more leaves.  This year, because we had a mild winter and a wet spring and summer, there are more fall webworms in our city’s trees than normal, and property owners have apparently been calling the city with concerns.

I understand the concerns because the River Birch in our front yard, which the B & C Tree and Lawn Service offered to obliterate for me, has sustained a particularly prolific population of fall webworms this year.  Last month, the meatiest part of the leaves on most of the tree were eaten away, and only the lacy remains of the veins were left.  Then, the fall webworms fell to the ground and started looking for a place to pupate.  Each day for a week or so, scores of fall webworms crawled their way across the cement floor of my front porch and up my front door.  My wife refused to use that door.  My son was fascinated as long as he could see them from a distance.  It was gross.  Nature is not helpful to those of us with an impulse to control, to bring order, or to maintain some standards of neatness.

Within a few days, though, the webworms stopped coming, and a good squirt with the garden hose got rid of the remains of the creatures which I had not been able to sweep into the azalea bed in front of the porch.  In the mean time, I had done my research:  fall webworms are harmless to the trees because they eat the leaves at just about the time they will die anyway.  The tree will leaf out again next spring, and once we get a good freeze or a surge in natural predators to control the population, all evidence of the infestation will be gone.  So there really is no need to do anything about the webworms.

That was more or less the advice which Mr. Flemming gave.  However, in the final paragraph of his column, he gave this caveat:  “If you have a highly valued ornamental, fruit or nut tree and are concerned, call an arborist. If the caterpillars or moths are invading your home, call a pesticide applicator.”  And in many ways, I wish he hadn’t said that.  I worry that it is too much of a nod to those people who cannot forbear this little bit of the chaos of nature invading their neat, ordered, suburban yards.  I worry that it encourages homeowners to try to control the problem anyway by calling in the “experts” and offering them healthy profits for spraying God-knows-what kinds of chemicals which will end up in our groundwater and rivers.  I worry that, instead of calling qualified arborists, who will calmly counsel them to just wait for the webworms to go away, his advice will encourage my neighbors to call people like the owner of B & C Tree and Lawn Service.  Because I know that, for three hundred dollars or so, B & C Tree and Lawn Service will happily oblige the homeowners’ disgust and fear of this most recent infestation of nature by removing the trees altogether.  No Job Too Large or Small.

The world needs more healthy mature trees, not fewer.  I wish the owners of B & C Tree and Lawn Service recognized that.  I wish my neighbors who have removed perfectly fine trees from their yards recognized that.  I wish the purveyors of the suburban ideal recognized that.  I wish the City of Savannah’s Director of Parks, Trees, and Cemeteries communicated that clearly, repeatedly, and without any qualification.  Why would I want to remove a perfectly healthy, mature tree?