From Where the Sidewalk Ends


Somehow, February got away from me. And then March. The days just slipped away through a hole in the floor, the grate, the ground, the sidewalk and ultimately, my soul. So, I search for them along the loop I walk most mornings that harbors mature oaks, maples and evergreens that have been around since this former army fort was established in the early 1900s. And some trees have been here long before that.

The other day, I noticed that a tree company had shown up and marked many long-standing sentries with ominous red x’s spray-painted on their trunks, or orange tape throttling their worn bark. There were too many to ignore, and some choices were downright puzzling. Sure, there were those that were mostly dead, or lopsided. But quite a few looked perfectly fine.

One morning before I left on a long trip, my walking partner and I marched around the loop saying a quiet goodbye and blessing to each of the doomed ones. The rumblings of the chainsaw and shrieks from a chipper could already be heard at the other end of the long parade, seemingly lined up like good soldiers waiting to be struck down by an enemy who claimed friendly fire, as if fire was ever friendly for a tree.

By the time I returned in mid-March, the sadly singled out were all gone, and in their places stood mounds of chips, where their very roots had been sought and ground out of existence. The innocent smell of freshly cut wood wafted in the breeze.

I still feel their ghosts as I walk, searching the sidewalks for a glimpse of the bottomless holes with their shimmering deceptions of days that are no longer there.

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6 thoughts on “From Where the Sidewalk Ends

  1. What a memorial! And how fitting that those grand old observers of us all should be so memorialized. I love the reflection of the tree in the sidewalk pond — what a poignant capture.

    1. As often happens, I started out writing something completely different, and this came pouring out instead. Those tree voices wanted to be heard. And a lucky catch one morning with the photo. Still can’t get used to the empty spaces on the Loop, sadly.

  2. Catherine Quillman

    This so beautifully written, it almost made me cry. I often react to trees as if they were people, but your term “sentry” was a new thought for me. As for people, I was once at a public meeting where (by chance) the council discussed condemning a tree. It was discussed since it was going to cost $6k to take down. I actually feared being called a “tree hugger” so I shrouded my concerns as a tax payer who demanded an explanation. I was only told that they “thought ” the tree would die anyway since they were installing brick sidewalks. Nearly 30 trees were removed that year, but the public announcements only said (drum roll here ) we were getting NEW trees and a New sidewalk using a grant called Mainstreet America! The new trees are very civic and do not grow much and thus have small leaf crowns! Unlike those messy old trees

    1. I wear the label “tree hugger” proudly, but I know what you mean Cathy. I so respect and admire the work you do to preserve the history in old buildings, homes, gardens and nature from being wiped away. My city is now immersed in a big fight to save the last remnants of an old growth forest from a veteran’s cemetery that most of the veterans and government officials don’t want, and that doesn’t have to be placed there. Public outcry has been huge, but the “owners” of the land only see the money.

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