Unnatural Phenomenon

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602 S. Gay Street
2nd Floor
Knoxville, TN 37902

Yesterday, the old maple tree outside my window began its annual “leafing out.” Just as the Dogwood trees showing their first blooms of delicate pink and white, or tulips poking through the chilly soil, this old maple tree signifies spring to me. I imagine this tree as a young tree that someone planted long ago, full of promise. Each year it grew taller, the branches reaching ever higher towards the sky. I have seen a young mother reading to her child under this very tree, shaded by the magnificent branches. The squirrels chase each other around and around its trunk, seeming to never tire of their game. In autumn, the leaves take on an other-worldly shade of maroon. The juxtaposition of this particular shade of maroon against the bright blue of an autumn sky makes one stop on the sidewalk to admire anything in nature that can produce such beauty. In winter, the tree is bare, but is no less beautiful in its simplicity. The bare branches against the winter white sky makes me want to curl up with a cup of cider on the couch and watch old movies.

Today, I heard a noise outside my window. A tree service employed by the city was readying the cherry picker on the truck. I watched wordlessly as a man started his chainsaw and began cutting away limbs that were “too close” to the utility wires. It was as if this magnificent tree outwardly groaned as its brightly budded limbs fell to the street below. I watched, with tears streaming down my face, as the arborist considered a branch with a bird’s nest in it. As it fell to the ground, I thought about how hard a bird had worked to ready the nest, and how easily it was destroyed. The entire process took about five minutes. I went outside to survey the damage, and saw what many see when they come to Knoxville—a tree that seems to be only growing on the side away from the street. A phenomenon of nature! Remarkable growing tendency! It must be some sort of Bonsai, trained to grow that way! Upon closer inspection, you notice the tree has sent out shoots of new branches to essentially “save itself” from the death that it thinks is eminent.

I guess this is just the circle of life. The natural order of things. Except with a chainsaw.

Mollie Dembek


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