I Miss Our Trees
As the entire town gets back on its feet, we thankfully return to the routines we often scorn as robotic. So many families, not only in Garden City, but all across the East Coast were effected one way or another; some severely. But, whatever the level of impact, we all can agree that we share the same level of shock.
I don’t think anyone expected the force of the wind and the surge of the water to be so devastating; families displaced and school districts shut down without electricity, houses completely destroyed and, if not totaled, beyond livable. And, then, there are the trees.
It may seem callous to lament the loss of so many trees in our town when so much else has been lost. But, the landscape of Garden City will never be the same. It seems the larger the tree the more easily it fell. For days the streets were impassable because some monstrous tree fell from one side of the street to the other. Even if the tree did not fall, its limbs were broken beyond repair. The air is still filled with the sound of chainsaws clearing away the debris leaving the space where such grand structures once stood. It is this space, these empty holes, that saddens me. And my heart is heavy for one tree in particular.
I began to chronicle “my tree” upon returning to town after having lived abroad with my family for three years. It seems, beyond missing family, friends and the occasional NY bagel, I also missed the changing of the leaves in autumn. It was one afternoon in October 2010 that the red of a tree caught my eye as I was driving past. I felt compelled to stop my car and take a picture or two; the red was that gorgeous. As I looked up at this tree I decided to photograph it with each change of the season.
Driving past this October I was heartened to see once again the red color just beginning to peek through the lush green of its summer fashion. And then, Sandy hit. My mind had been occupied, like so many others in town, with keeping warm and arranging for fallen trees to be removed from our property. It would be three weeks before I would see the object of my photographic inspiration.
The square where my tree was located, between St. James and Clinton, lost so many trees. However, my tree remained. With its snapped limbs and twisted branches it stood rooted in its place; the red of the leaves not fully finished their annual appearance. Unfortunately, while I contemplated ways that I could save this tree, other plans were in the works and I would be too late.
The tree was cut down and removed like so many in the square. I imagine the decision was made that it could not be saved and that it was dangerous to leave a tree with so many broken branches. It makes sense but it is also sad.
The loss of our trees, while minor in comparison to the loss of homes and power, is what I will remember of Sandy. Every block could tell a story of the trees that fell that day; the evidence is still present. Our town’s beauty has been in its tree lined streets and their absence will take some getting used to.
I am so grateful for the year in pictures I have taken of my tree. And, while I am no Ansel Adams, I am glad I could capture its vibrant color of autumn, its starkness of winter, its hopeful budding of spring and its lushness of summer.
I will absolutely be planting a tree this spring.