Thursday, November 19, 2015

FAREWELL TO PINES

Every time I turn into my drive lately, three freshly-cut stumps reproach me. They are the remains of 75 ft. pine trees that had been in my front yard for thirty-seven years – tall, cheerful pines that survived several severe hurricanes with few scars to their scaly, alligator bark. I will miss their whispering voices when south winds blow in, but they shouldn’t have intruded on the plumbing in my home.

When we returned from The Mountain in Tennessee a few weeks ago, the roots of these straight-trunked, sun-loving beauties had extended their fingers across the entire length and width of the yard and reached deep into the maze of plumbing lines that ran under the front lawn. One of them had gradually overpowered the edge of the drive leading to the rear of my home as most of my friends enter by the back door, and I had begun to get serious complaints about their near-misses of the tree when they backed out.

 My tall, cheerful pines had to go.

Pine trees have always been part of my life. During my childhood in Franklinton, Louisiana, after we returned from a long summer trip gypsying in California, my mother was drawn back to the piney woods of southeast Louisiana where my grandfather had settled after he left Hazlehurst, Mississippi, another pine tree habitat.

My great-grandmother had been raised in the piney woods of Brandon, Mississippi where names like Pine Lake Road, Shady Pines RV Park, Pine Ridge Circle, and Southern Pine Electric Power abound. Residents in these parts, who already have thick stands of pines on their property, have been advised by experts at the Mississippi State University Forest and Wildlife Research Center to use herbicides to kill off the noxious weed forests of kudzu in that area and to replace them with more pine trees to increase land value. People in those parts seem to know how to live alongside pines without fear of hurricanes, plumbing failures, lawn damage, and I guess I should have taken lessons about pine location from my grandfather back when…

Walter Anderson's Etching: Concept of Pine
My trees were slash pines, and they were young compared to some venerable ones that live to be between 100 – 1000 years of a — they obviously tolerated the poorly-drained soil in my neighborhood, which most pines do not. One summer on a visit to California, my botanist friend, Vickie, and I turned off on a road leading to the oldest bristlecone pine tree in the U.S., an ancient specimen 4600 years old, but we were forced to turn around before reaching it after ten miles or so because of intense heat and no water in the car.

I will miss picking up the cones with my grandchildren who’ve always been attracted to them when they came to visit, filling their wagons and transporting their prickly cargo to the coulee behind my home. These pine cones are heavy with symbolism and are reputed to represent the Third Eye of the Soul and enlightenment, so I’ve slain some totems of spirituality by having cut down the trees that bear them. One legend attributed to pine cones is that they were actually the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden, so you can see I’ve really felled the bearers of true enlightenment. The Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, whose sacred staff has a pine cone atop it, might be appalled!


The sight of those tall beauties must have had some mystical influence on creativity because the Muse has not been visiting me so often since the demise of the pines, and I haven’t even been able to write a Eulogy for Pines. This is the best I can do for my old friends. I will miss the clean, sharp smell of pine needles that often energized me when all else failed and I stepped outdoors to breathe their scent … but, alas, I am inured to indoor plumbing.  

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