All the time I breathe, in and out, trading oxygen for carbon dioxide, the same as any animal: dolphin, cockroach, or wooly mammoth. Breathing too in a sort of opposite way, carbon dioxide in and oxygen out, are trees. Where I live there are a lot of trees, for an urban setting. My mother grew up in New York City and she always claimed there were no trees there and for this reason she was particularly fascinated and grateful for trees. She made sure that her children knew all the right names of trees from an early age. Podocarpus, Weeping Willow, Japanese Maple, Cyprus, California Buckeye.
As I walk around the neighborhood John rattles on and I silently say the names of the trees. Sometimes there will be a pink notice on a tree. This always means that the person who owns the property where the tree lives wants to cut it down. The City of Santa Cruz has laws that require public hearings for the removal of any tree over 15 feet. I have never attended such a hearing, but I imagine the red tape alone keeps homeowners from deforesting the city.
Along the block where John lives the entire street is lined with majestic Sycamores. Leaves buoyantly green in the spring and summer, drop brown and crunchy in front yards and on the street in the fall. Winter sees bare branches scratching calligraphy in the sky The tree protection law extends only to the actual removal of a tree; pruning is unregulated. It appears that cutting half the main branches from a tree is still pruning, since this is just what John’s neighbor did the other day. I arrived on the scene midway through the desecration and to my surprise felt quite nauseous. At the end of it a medium sized trailer was filled with branches, some a foot in diameter. The neighbor took them to the dump; they wouldn’t even be burned in fireplace or made into garden chips.
I breathe in and I breathe out, sometimes it is hard to be human.