They came, they sawed, they conquered

At least we had that glorious day in March together.

A few months ago, one of our neighbors chopped down their tree. It was the largest one on the block, dwarfing everything around it. How tall? I happened to capture it in the photo above, which I texted my sister last March to taunt her about Phoenix’s amazing winter weather while I was lazing about in the back yard. The orange trees that make up the hedge in the foreground are about 15 feet high; meanwhile, the tree stood a good half-block past them.

We live half a block away from the stadium at Phoenix College (stalkers please disregard this geographical tidbit) and the floodlights always spectacularly illuminated the outline of the foliage, so even on evenings when there was no moon, you felt like you could see every branch. And on quiet nights we could hear the rustling as the higher-altitude drafts swished through the leaves while closer to earth, everything remained still .

Spectacularly sized trees lend a preeminence to a neighborhood, reminding you that they were around long before you moved in — and will likely be there long after you move on.

This one’s time, however, had come: The house was sold, new owners moved in and started xeriscaping the yard. The first day that I saw tree crews, I assumed they were there to trim any low-lying branches that could obstruct power or cable lines. The second day, they blocked off half the street, which implied something more nefarious was about to begin; by Day Three it was clear that my gentle giant was being felled.

My gentle giant.” I thought of it a little bit like my tree — or at least a community tree. I wondered about the next-door homeowners who no longer would benefit from the shade during Phoenix’s blistering summers. In a neighborhood where the historic preservation committee can nix your choice of front windows if they don’t appear “period-correct” — show me the muntins! —  wouldn’t there have to be some sort of vote to chop down such a big piece of the neighborhood’s past? But then again, its very scale could have made it hazardous; if it were to crash down in a storm, it would probably have demolished not just one house, but several. (This is how my brain works: “Look at that beautiful large tree! I wonder how many houses it would destroy if it fell. That one, that one, that one. …”)

Nevertheless, it was a sad day when I rounded the corner and was greeted by a giant pile of wood. Apparently the people who live across the street from the house (nickname: “the Lime House Lesbians,” because as you might be able to tell from the photo (click on the thumbnail to bring up the full-size photo in a new browser window), their house is a truly unfortunate shade of green) felt so, too; they asked the tree crew for part of the trunk, which now occupies a big part of their front lawn. I’ll be interested to see what, if anything they create from it. Considering that it was fresh wood just a month or so ago and it’s half as thick as their car is tall, it’ll take forever to dry out, so it’s not like it can suddenly be hewn into barrel chairs or something. God forbid they be considering a chainsaw sculpture.

Every time I drive past the newly xeriscaped yard, I curse the owner’s choice of parched-looking color palette and desiccated-looking plants. Xeriscape can be done well, and this doesn’t look attractive at all. Plus, they put in a circular driveway, so now it gives the effect of parking a car in their front yard. Boo, new neighbors! I’m glad you live next door to people who think an inflatable cross-country-skiing Santa Claus counts as holiday yard decor. I’m sure you’ll be quite happy with each other.

In the meantime, I’ve got to befriend the people three doors down, who have a giant palm tree in their back yard.* (For a long time, they had lights spiraling all the way up the trunk. It was a beautiful sight.) If it goes, I’m not going to be held responsible for my actions.

* I’m pretty sure if that one fell, it could hit three houses … but not ours.

The shirt: Long-sleeved T-shirt by Abercrombie & Fitch,
a birthday present from Sharyn about 10 years ago.
The pants: Corduroy shorts, on sale at Lucky Brand, Chandler.
The shoes: Sneakers by Skechers, from Last Chance.

2 responses to “They came, they sawed, they conquered

  1. Ahhhh, the fate of the lovely Jacaranda across the street from me. Boo, indeed.

    • Sam Mittelsteadt

      I’m glad we at least have our jacaranda in our own front yard. (Even if it does have those awful pods. Now that we have a lawn service I don’t have to worry about mowing over them.) And 100 orange trees, just in time for orange blossom season.

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