Does a Tree Cry?
by Albert Abby Ybarra
It is my tradition for every spring to get out and take stock of the land as we enter another new season. As I drive around Southern Maryland and take periodic hikes into the marshlands and tree-lined parks of the Bay area, I continue to learn more about my new home in the Chesapeake watershed. All around I see and hear the sounds of the new spring taking over from the winter.
The real beauty of our Bay watershed is that we still have some of the ancient remnants of the trees of springtime past. I speak of the many small wonderlands of old-growth trees missed by the developers specializing in razing wooded areas and leaving that excuse for greenscape: grass.
I dont care what species of fescue it is, it never made sense to me that of all the things that we can grow for ourselves we grow a species of plant life that we feed overfeed in many cases with tons of chemicals that leech into the watershed environment then we cut it down. To harvest? Heck no! It doesnt even serve well with salads, as dandelions do.
But every household in the Southern Maryland Bay area will be playing that tune very soon. Gentlemen, start your tractors.
Last weekend, my family hiked in the rain. Seems a concerned teacher, Judy Mintor, of Mt. Harmony Elementary School, wanted to know if I could identify an old tree near her home in Breezy Point.
It and another tree were 300 to 400 years old and in danger of falling to the developers axe. One was recently spared but now must contend with a huge home on its lap. The other tree is in danger of an ever-encroaching development. Up to a year or so ago, an untouched old-tree forest grew in Mintors front yard.
Visiting a tree that measured more than 22 feet at the center and well over 40 feet at the base of its roots, I could sense the great energy stored within its branches not to mention the history this tree has seen and what it has lived through.
Who will speak for the trees? That was the question my children asked. My daughter, Marina, told me that if the tree is in danger of being cut down, she will form a human picket line of like-minded students from her fifth-grade class. The trees have more value than just to be cut down for firewood, said my daughter. That is such a waste.
But of all my spring travels throughout the Bay area these past weeks, nothing struck me as odd as watching the parks maintenance people cut down a tree in a Dunkirk park. Last year this time, I remember it was green and alive, but this year someone claimed it was dead and thought it might fall down.
After the crew left, I went over to see the tree. Okay, I admit, I went over to talk to the tree. It was still alive, barely. The stump was all chewed up, and a nesting pair of osprey was recycling the bits of its older branches. They dont make their nest in the parks trees anymore, because today they prefer the parks light towers. Maybe they know that someday, someone will come by and just cut down their tree.
A tree is on the job 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A tree-life of fifty years is worth more than $57,000 in benefits, the American Forestry Association estimates. It controls storm water and erosion, cools the air, shelters wildlife and controls air pollution by storing pollutants in its body.
In our rural forest, rain is slowed and filtered by the forest canopy. In tree-barren areas, rainfall builds up quickly, requiring more expensive drainage systems, and runoff can overpower storm drains causing local flooding and soil erosion. Land stripped for construction produces thousands of tons of sediment. This sediment enters the Bay, clouds the water and cuts off oxygen from algae and to the fish. Trees along the shoreline can prevent this destructive sediment.
As I was leaving the park, I cant be sure, but I thought I heard a cry from the beautiful tree left dangling with a stump, its torn branches strewn about the parking lot. Perhaps it was the wind or the sounds of nature crackling and whining through the air. Still, I will think about that for a while, and Ill dream of what it could have been. If a tree is cut down in its prime, like us, does it cry?