Ep. 22 – Phoenix – Confessions of A Tree Killer
“I didn’t mean to!” That has to be what most guilty parties claim when they are found out. What had seemed like a good idea for how to take care of a problem back yard, while considering the extreme drought our state is in, went horribly wrong. My seven Redwood trees are in distress, possibly dying.
I was reveling in my new back yard, which is now a back patio, and frankly congratulating myself for finding a solution to an area that would not, could not consistently grow lawn. Part of the problem was the overwhelming shade of my Redwood trees, combined with the acidic needle droppings that hinder other growing things. It seemed a perfect solution for the small area between the back of the house and the fence separating off neighbors—to cement it over.
It was not an easy choice, and definitely not an easy process. One of the factors keeping my small plot of land from supporting grass had been the mass of tiny roots sent out by my beloved Redwoods. It was a grueling task to chop them down low enough to allow for a foundation to be poured. All the while I am wondering why the developer chose to put Redwoods in every yard as a signature for this grouping of homes. Redwoods are in the woods for a reason. They need the space.
Frankly, the presence of these feeder roots should have been a huge red flag. Roots take nourishment to the plant. I mistakenly thought that since my trees are well-established—over 25 years old—that their deep roots had their own source for water. Well, I was right and I was wrong.
It now being six months since the patio replaced the lawn, and the fact that we have been in triple digits more times than I can count in the last months, the Redwoods began to shed way too much. These falling needles and branches are a sign of distress. Even my neighbor noted the change—and wasn’t too happy about the untenable amount of cleanup he has to do on his side of the fence. I consulted an Arborist.
The bottom line is that, yes, mature Redwoods do indeed have deeper roots that maintain their stability, however what I didn’t know is that the fine roots permeating my back yard were actually feeding the trees. Their lives are on the line, and unless I can figure out how to get them proper watering, they could die out altogether. It seems that the small roots extend out to the breadth of the branches.
At this point at the ground is where I could put soaker hoses, but unfortunately that area is now solid cement. I am sure we will come up with a solution, but I was surprised I was so ignorant of the far-reaching devastation I could wreak by making what seemed like a wise decision.
As often happens when I am in the throes of an issue with mankind and the world—in the forest, as it were—I see more than the Redwoods. As we human critters age, not unlike these wonderful trees, and send out our young into lives of their own, there are some truths, as well as some cautions. Yes, for the most part, our aging parents have the deep roots of stability. They are surviving. But I guess the question is, “Are they thriving?” The “tiny feeder roots” our parents send out are not just a frill, but are actually needed for their very existence.
I have to quickly add that I am not trying to make our young families feel guilty, or I would have to point the finger at myself as well. Even though all my children are out in their own homes with their own families, it was not so long ago that I was the child sent out.
A regular conversation I had with my now-deceased husband, was his inquiry as to how long it had been since I had called my parents. It was an important question, especially since most of my adult life has been spent several states away from my parents. I couldn’t just drop in a couple of times a week.
I confess that I was so enmeshed in my little family’s life, my work, our extended local community that my parents became an afterthought. To this day I am saddened to remember that when my mother would call and invariably reach my answering machine instead of me, she would preface her message with, “Sharon, this is your mother.” I would chuckle that she thought I would not recognize her voice. And then I realized, she probably thought I wouldn’t recognize her voice.
My mother has been gone these 13 years, and my father 12, but I still wince. How could I be so insensitive, so unloving, to not realize that the parents who invested everything in my welfare, who equipped me as best they could to launch me, did not want to be out of the everyday life I now lived. It’s not even just about the grandkids, but of course they saw my children at best once a year for just a few days. It was about staying connected with those who came before me. They enrich our lives as much as we do theirs.
Our parents may seem like Redwoods, forever stable, deep rooted. As I scramble to save my trees, I realize again how God’s nature has every lesson we need to learn. Take a lesson from the trees. They are not forever. While they are still among us, they require ongoing sustenance for their survival. It is not enough to just live. We all want to thrive.
A common placard asks, “Did you hug a tree today?” Where’s the sign that asks, “Did you call your parents today?”