Around the corner from my house, a tree fell during Hurricane Irene, blocking the entire roadway. By fortune, the tree did not land on a car or a house or power lines. Had the wind shifted, had the break happened a little bit lower on the trunk, who knows what damage that tree could have caused.
Still, there is something sad about the loss of a tree. As I looked at the site, I was taken by not only the enormity of the tree, but also by its age. They say that by examining the rings of a tree, you can see the tree’s life, when it was a wet year or a dry year. But the rings certainly can’t tell you what that tree came to mean to so many people; rings cannot tell you what any tree means to any person.
Staring at the tree, I thought about the trees in my own life. There was the fir tree in the backyard, under which I would play with Matchbox cars and Tonka trucks, building roads so that a large root became an overpass. There was the maple tree in the front yard, which would ignite with fiery leaves each autumn. We would then rake the leaves into a huge pile and run and jump into the pile, or even have a leaf war with friends across the street. My friend Thomas had a tree that was perfect for climbing, giving young minds a wh0le new view of life in suburbia. My friend Bobby had a tree house, a simple platform high off the ground, a refuge from summer play and heat.
Consider trees in your own life: initials carved in the trunk, proclaiming true love forever; planted to commemmorate a birth or a first Christmas or an anniversary or in memory of a deceased relative, friend, or pet; picnic blankets spread beneath them; a hammock stretched out for an afternoon nap. So many memories are held in the branches of our trees.
Now the tree around the corner is gone. No more shade for people waiting for the bus. No more shelter for birds and squirrels. No more keeping a watchful eye on all of the changes that have happened in the neighborhood since it sprouted thirty, forty, fifty years ago. Imagine what that tree has seen in its lifetime: residents moving in and out, widening roads, overhearing conversations as people walked by.
All of it gone in a storm.
Now, it’s time to turn our attention to the personal “trees” of our neighbors, friends, families, and strangers. Personally, Joe and I were very fortunate in the hurricane. We never lost power, we didn’t lose any trees, we suffered no serious damage. Sadly, this is not the case with everyone.
The news is now filled with images of Irene’s aftermath, and it is tragic. So many people have lost their very own trees: their homes, their livelihoods, their loved ones. And I hear that the government is moving funds from the folks in Joplin, Missouri, devasted by a tornado earlier this year, in order to help people in New England. The government is broke and broken.
I’m sorry to rant about this, but isn’t it time Congress gets called back from vacation? Isn’t it time to pass some kind of legislation or works program to rebuild not only New England, but also Joplin and any other locale that has faced a natural disaster? We have spent millions and millions of dollars to build/rebuild infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan. An independent report issued today states that 60 billion dollars was wasted in those countries as a result of fraud, corruption, and mismanagement. FEMA has only 800 million dollars to fund all of its rebuilding efforts. Where is the money for the homefront? For the American people who footed the bill for these countries, these wars, and the Wall Street bailout? Where is the quality assistance that so many people need so that they can have their “tree” back? Where are the ideas, the creativity, the cooperation? On the day of the storm, neighbors came together to help cut downed trees and limbs. My neighbor offered to take my pile of branches with his load to the town dump because I’m the neighbor who always retrieves his dog when it gets loose. If neighbors and communities can be brought together in the worst of times, why not political parties?
I am not looking for a political speech, nor for a photo op of politicians and candidates, each one offering false promises and blurry ideas. I am looking for a government that can stop bickering on the petty issues, that can stop strategizing for the next campaign. Perhaps Washington, DC, should remember that “mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” It’s time to get back to governing, back to bettering the lives of the people who elected them in the first place — so that we can all grow.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m naive, maybe I’m a bit of a Polyanna — but to me, this is just common sense. The last time I checked, weren’t we all part of the same family tree?