I’m not overwhelmed with joy about the Christmas tree that just rolled into Rockefeller Center. A Norway Spruce, the 78-foot specimen came from a town called Gardiner in upstate New York, where it towered over its owners’ diminutive house. Or diminutive in comparison, anyway. I always wonder who the tree spotters are, the tree scouts who go out and scour the countryside to find the one that will be massive enough for New York City. In this case the head gardener for Rockefeller Center got wind of the family’s shaggy green heirloom online and ventured up to see for herself.
I admit, I like my tree over the holidays, but I don’t like to see any of them cut down.
This past week I was surveying tree pits I’d worked at in the last couple of weeks to see that topsoil had been added in the right proportions. My job, of course, is saving trees by protecting the roots that come uncovered when the construction crew excavates the old sidewalk. Now I pulled around the corner and drove down 78th Street in Brooklyn. I was looking for a sizable sugar maple (Acer saccurum), a handsome guy whose roots had been a muscular tangle that needed special care to keep them intact.
No tree. Where could it have gone? Then I saw, lying on the sidewalk, falling into the street, the maple, hacked into thick pieces. The wood was so fresh it looked wet. Sawdust and leaves, everywhere.
I was sick. Who had taken the tree down, and why? I looked back at my notes, which indicated that a long, heavy branch extended over the street. That didn’t seem reason enough to lose the whole thing. You invest yourself in this living being, its branches and leaves, its stout trunk. And then it’s cut.
The man who presented his tree to Rockefeller Center recalled growing up with it, climbing its ladder of branches with his siblings, getting in trouble for getting pitch on their clothes. He said that the tree was just getting too big for his yard.
I don’t really get it. It’s just not a possibility, that I would ever take a saw to a tree because it was too large. Selfish, I know – all those happy tourists in Manhattan for the windows and the sparkly lights, yep. And the lumber’s going to go to Habitat for Humanity in January.
But when it comes down to it, we’ve killed another giant.