Photographed with Nikon D200, 70-200mm lens.

When we immigrated from Trinidad to Houston, we decided against moving to a brand new neighbourhood and into a brand new house, choosing instead to live in an older neighbourhood, with 50-year-old homes and huge oak trees.  I remember when we first saw our little house with the 12 huge oak trees in front, we knew we'd found our home.

That was two years ago.  And since then, sadly, horrifyingly, the giant oaks have been dying off, one by one.

We honestly don't know what is killing our trees, particularly since the rest of our garden remains very lush and healthy, with no hint of anything affecting any other foliage.  "Sudden Oak Death," was one hypothesis, since the trees are usually healthy one day, and two weeks later all the leaves have turned completely brown.  Another neighbour presumed that a nearby house had poor swimming pool drainage, and our oaks were the unwitting victims.  Most recently, we consulted Arturo, the wonderfully gentle man who helped us in the past with one tree that ended up on our neighbour's house, courtesy of Hurricane Ike.  He stood looking up at one sad, brown shell of a tree, with a worried look on his face.

"I think this one was struck by lightning," he said.  "See there?"

My eyes followed his pointing finger up to the top of a tree, indicating a small, dark scar near the top branches.  I nodded, but remained skeptical.  Lightning might explain the demise of one tree, but not 10.  And as I stood mulling, the voice of my "ol' aunt," Auntie Aqui, filled my mind:  "Take care a jumbie eh livin' in dose trees, yes!" I could hear her saying.  And really, some sort of evil supernatural entity taking residence in our oaks is just as good a guess as any, I suppose.

Anyway, this weekend Arturo's men were back, cutting down three more trees.  As they strapped on their harnesses, clipped on their crampons and scaled the oaks, I sat helplessly looking on below.

It makes me unbearably sad to see these trees reduced to a pile of branches and tree stumps. I hate the thought of these once verdant trees being dead and withered.  But a friend recently pointed out that I am often resistant to change, and in fact, change can sometimes be a good thing -- endings heralding new beginnings, that sort of thing.  As the men worked, the air started to fill with a lovely woody smell, and the sawdust began to settle on the surrounding foliage, and flowers, and I consoled myself with the realization that the trees had lived a good long life before being cut down.  Besides, their branches and trunks would end up warming us this winter, as firewood in our fireplace. And really, what better service could an old oak be put to, than to bring light and heat to the home in front of which it once stood?

And anyway, as we always do, we will plant new trees where the old ones once stood.


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 SongApple tree by Erykah Badu