Tree Massacre

When you’re trying to focus on some really boring proofreading work, what’s more distracting than a guy with a chainsaw cutting branches out of a tree next door?

Two guys with chainsaws cutting branches out of a tree next door, especially when neither of them are wearing harnesses or safety lines and the one higher up in the tree is wearing shorts and flip-flops…FLIP-FLOPS…so you just…can’t…stop…watching.


There’s a full moon arisin’ and Puna celebrated with a Full Flower Moon in Scorpio music healing event at the community center, which meant rolling out yoga mats and settling into relaxation while a lady played singing bowls and a guy played gongs and a hang drum.

I wanted to participate because I adore hang drums and wondered what a singing bowl could be made to do. Mine says ‘ding’ and that’s about it. But these musicians squoze some pretty amazing sounds out of those instruments. I was feeling pretty relaxed and zen and started hearing images, like Tibetan monks tiptoeing around their monasteries and whale song and gumball machines. It was very cool. It was very Puna.

The only real downside was a mosquito who was feasting on my ankle. I shifted, I scratched. I remembered that there was someone in the near distance with a chainsaw ripping holes in my serenity at the botanical garden the other day. At the time, I fervently wished him an empty gas tank or a kink in his chain. Of course I realize that he was just doing his job; a garden in a jungle requires constant maintenance. But I did feel that I’d paid for my serenity and there is hypocrisy in having to fight for it. I also couldn’t help wishing the guy would drop the damned thing on his foot.

Which brings us to today’s lesson in living: There will always be a mosquito or a chainsaw or horrible neighbor. The key is not letting these things drive you buggy. True serenity, like true happiness and contentment and gratitude, comes from within.

The Great Tree Massacre

I was in the kitchen this morning kneading bread, trying to work past my resentment of the chainsaws whining next door. The one, the only, good thing about the people next door was the magnificent monkey pod tree at the back of their property. Now they are having it cut down, branch by agonizing branch, week by agonizing week. I hear the gut-wrenching scream of the chainsaw and then a loud crack and then another stately limb falls to its death. It feels like the tree is being tortured, slowly and with malice, wounded stumps protruding from the trunk, slowly emerging bald spots in its scalp shorn of deep green leaves. I don’t want to look, but can’t not look.

As I worked, I heard a thump outside a front window, both too soft and to loud for the wind. Twitch, napping on a cushion in a patch of sunlight, looked up briefly but seemed unconcerned.

Clasping my flour-coated hands, I padded toward the window. I peered at the glass and saw a tiny feather stuck to it. Several others were scattered across the concrete ledge under the window. I guessed that one of the little grey birds that twitter around our garden had flown into the glass, perhaps intoxicated by the scent of the gardenia bush. Looking down, I didn’t see a stunned, quivering body. Looking up, I saw only a clear blue sky festooned with wisps of feather-light cloud. Twitch had already gone back to sleep.

As the bread baked, I basked in the comfort of the female scent of warm yeast, thrilled to the baby’s-bottom texture of dough against my palms, reveled in the anticipation of a warm, crusty loaf, sliced and crowned with butter and passion fruit jam.

This one fairly insignificant day in my life feels like a reflection in miniature of the world outside. Sometimes the largest and most powerful is at the mercy of something small, Goliath the Tree vs. Samson the Chainsaw. Sometimes someone small is battered by his own foolishness, my tiny avian Emperor in his New Clothes. Sometimes the simple combination of yeast and flour and milk and honey can make all of that all right.