I have new neighbours. I don’t like them. Oh, don’t get me wrong, they seem like nice enough people. We exchange pleasantries if we pass on the streets, are at the cars at the same time, that sort of thing.
But I don’t like them.
There was a beautiful pomegranate tree in their back garden that had been nurtured and tended to by the previous owners. It was close enough to my backyard that it offered shade and, in the summer months, some wonderful bounty.
But the new neighbours cut it down.
I haven’t thought of them the same way since then. Why cut down a wonderful, giving, living thing for no apparent reason? Aesthetics? Make gardening easier?
As far as I’m concerned, they might seem to be the nicest people in the world, but if you cut down such a wonderful fruit-bearing tree, or fail to see the beauty of it, appreciate it, nurture it, then they are shallow of heart and light in depth.
For the past year, I have nurtured an olive tree sapling, giving it every encouragement to take root and grow in a sheltered corner of my garden. It has taken hold, is growing, sprouting new shoots and seems determined that it will stand stronger each year.
Olive trees can live for hundreds of years, providing a rich bounty to their guardians for generations. I do not know if I will live long enough for this particular tree to reach such a stage where it will return its love by providing olives. Maybe, someday, but likely long after I am gone.
As an observer of events across the Middle East, very often, what saddens me is the wonton destruction of olive groves, most usually by Israeli regime forces, demolishing farmhouses and poisoning the sweet water wells of the Palestinian households who have lived there and toiled that land for ages and eons. That is the deliberate destruction of centuries of ties, unforgivable in my estimation.
I know one young lad back in the United Kingdom who was never focused on his schoolwork and much preferred the outdoors, being in sync with the wild. That’s a rarity, given the alluring world of gaming, partying with friends, smartphones and the internet. But young Finlay, as soon as he left school, sought out an apprenticeship as a tree surgeon. Today, he’s happy climbing trees, removing limbs, saving them and being a forest guardian. A true tree-hugger.
Last week, in the central mountains of Thailand, I watched a young man climb coconut palms with just a rope and machete, trimming away what was needed to ensure they thrive and continue to provide a bounty.
Where I live in Spain, there are many palm trees. The sad thing is some have contracted a form of beetle that slowly devours the tree from within, killing it off. Remedial efforts to save the infected trees have mixed results. I am sad to say that I believe two on the street outside will soon be lost. In many ways, though, I can accept that loss more easily that I can the axing of that pomegranate tree. One is nature taking its course, one is man taking his.
Autumn has long been my favourite time of the year. The summer heat is gone, the bounty of the fields has been harvested, and there is change in the air. But it is in the changing of the trees that there is a natural beauty, a miracle of the seasons that shows us how rich and versatile, deep and precious the landscape is. And why is must be appreciated and cherished.
There is nothing better than taking a walk in woods where leaves rustle underfoot, a yellow, brown and purple canopy that reminds us how precious and fleeting life is.