Susanna Salk


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Tree Sick
Friday, April 6th, 2018

I used to drive by this tree all the time on the way to take my kids to school. I was impressed how close it was to the house and the country road but more importantly how old and grand it was, how it liked to show off all the seasons in its many fans of branches while still humble in its location: vulnerable to traffic, yet a potential threat to a roof. One winter morning I pulled over to capture how perfectly every branch was so evenly draped with newly fallen snow. I shared the picture on Facebook and then I deleted it, as I keep my camera roll highly edited.
Eventually I stopped driving by the tree as my children graduated. So it seemed sadly coincidental that I happened to drive by it again exactly as it was being cut down. I gasped and began to roll down my window to ask the cutting crew why, as the tree looked so healthy but what did it matter at that point and would the answer have really comforted me? Traffic urged me on and there was nothing I could do except try to steal one more glance of its branches in my rearview mirror. Were there new owners in the house who did not want to risk its proximity? I would’ve welcomed its sweet shade, and considered the very fact of its many years on this earth a balm during turbulent times. Later that afternoon when I drove back past the tree I was sickened to see how much of the stump remained, how ugly the humans had left it. I dreamt that night that I was lifted high in the trees’ branches to scream at the couple in bed through an opened window but no sound came came out from my mouth. Today for some reason, I pulled over. I thought back of the tree on that snowy day and my boys snuggled in the backseat, the world where it should be. I took the picture of the stump, willing it to feel reverential not expository. Willing every fiber of my being for the tree to understand why I had come back and how truly sorry I was. The owner saw me and came walking over from the back yard and I quickly drove away. For if he asked me what I was doing there how could I ever begin to explain?