Category Archives: Arborist

The Pleasures of the Urban Arborist

I wish I could suck it all up, absorb it and remember every single thing. Driving in the black night over the highways of New York City to get to the site. The lichen on the burly oaks. Their majesty.

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The flashy red leaf plum.

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The smell of sesame oil wafting through the Chinese neighborhood at Francis Lewis Boulevard. The 7:30 am parade of children to school, holding their parents’ hands. The identical row houses of Queens. The crone who was surprised when I approached her: “She’s a lady!” which is true, though I like feeling a little bit like a man on this job. The persistent smell of exhaust from the landscaping truck. Prickly sweetgum balls, red maple twigs, the puffs that hang swaying from the london plane.

 

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The way the root of the l.p. emphatically bulges over and raises up the sidewalk.

 

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The resident who was aghast that her neighbors had had their mammoth tree butchered: “I came back from Vegas and it was done!”

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The haunted houses of Brooklyn.

 

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Learning to differentiate between a zelkova and a linden. Bad bodega coffee. The best lunch in the world.

 

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The soapy grace of laundromats that let you pee there. Proud pit bulls. The soft detritus of leaves pushed up against the gutters. Laying my palm on a fat cherry trunk, feeling its lenticels under the pads of my fingers.

Days that are poems.

 

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And always, the juxtaposition of the natural and the manmade.

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I’ve been doing this for just under a year now.

 

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The Saddest Sweetgum in New York

Proceeding along Braddock Avenue in the Bellerose neighborhood of Queens, high winds gusting all around, we went about the business of pruning street trees. I saw dozens of American sweetgums. Liquidambar is the poetic scientific name for the species, and it refers to the honeyed sap that flows beneath the bark if you cut into it. I love these trees, most especially for their fruits, prickly brown seed-filled “gumballs” that litter the ground in winter.

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They hold on tenaciously, coexisting with the waxy pinkish flowers about to unfurl in spring as though they just can’t say goodbye to mommy and drop away.

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They remind me of the coal carriers in  Hayao Miyazaki’s inspired movie Spirited Away.

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One tree I came across was well past its prime, weathered and half dead, its limbs truncated where Con Ed had cut them free of the power line that ran through its crown. Any branch that enters the “box” around the line, my pruner told me, is unceremoniously lopped off.

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It was about the saddest sweetgum I’d seen, the old girl. She had a shape like the Winged Victory of Samothrace, but she was not treasured and adored but left to linger in her too-small tree pit with razor wire for a neighbor.

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She brought to mind Shel Silverstein’s disturbing fable The Giving Tree, in which an apple tree gives itself unceasingly to a boy, until all that is left of it is a trunk. The thing about a book, though, that allows children to not die from the horror of this story, is that you can go back to the beginning again and again, seeing the tree whole and gracious. Yes, the tree suffers an awful decline, but it springs to life everytime we open the book’s cover. We have a chance for a do-over. That is the power of art.

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I am writing this now as the trimmed branches from another tree rain down around me, the crew’s work almost done for the day. I’m standing fifteen blocks from the saddest sweetgum in New York, too far to pay a call before I get in my car and leave for home.

I don’t know if I want to see her again anyway. She’s old and homely, her spiky fruits long fallen. She has nothing to give, unlike the presents of the giving tree. She is all that has already been taken, in this harsh city, and nothing, no careful pruning, no perfect cut, will bring her back.

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Cutting Loose

We were in the Washington Heights neighborhood of upper Manhattan, me and a pruning crew. It was frigid on this second day of spring, and you could see all the charcoal shadows stretching out in front of the big apartment buildings before the sun saw fit to rise fully. Going from tree to tree, all of them honeylocusts with threatening looking bristle-burrs on the branches, I noticed how people had appropriated the “furniture” of the sidewalk – the trees. In the branches I saw, to name just a few things,  strings of Christmas lights, green garlands, icicle streamers, a Lean Cuisine mini pizza box and a sign that read “MOVE 100 dollars 24 hours.”

The rice and beans are tasty in this lively neighborhood but there is a pervasive sadness, with trash blowing down the streets and many empty storefronts. I saw a dozen beggars, some of them deranged, most of them asking for 50 cents.

The head pruner on the job, who was also the head of the landscaping company, graced us with his chainsawing skills. And he was good. He transformed more than one ugly duckling tangle of trunk and branches into a cinderella honeylocust. He joked that his next career was going to be as a hair stylist.

We went up and down Broadway nipping and tucking overgrown trees. The street was set for new asphalt and the milling machine had to have room to move along without getting hung up on branches. The son was there too, an awkward guy in his mid twenties, having been doing this job, said his father, “since he was two.” I wasn’t sure what piece of the job he did when he was two. Standing with me, he admired his father’s handiwork as he stood up in the bucket with his saw roaring. “So hard to do an elevated cut without lion’s tailing,” he commented, and I nodded sagely.

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A banner across the front of a school caught my eye: “None of us is as strong as all of us.” The limbs of the trees rose from the trunks like a chorus of spring.

Later, on a break, the father bent my ear about clients who want him simply to top a tree to reduce its size. “I would never do anything to harm a tree,” he emphasized. “I can justify every cut I make.”

I like the idea of justifying the cuts you make. The first cut is the deepest, as the song goes. Are the lyrics actually about pruning a tree?

The son had just told me something critical about another arborist who works for the company: “Every cut he makes is perfect, but he is just too slow.” Of course I’d rather be slow but perfect, but I didn’t say anything. The young guy is fast-fast-fast, in his twenties after all.

After the job was over I picked up my car at a garage, standing next to a ruddy faced young man in a yarmulke holding a gigantic bouquet of red roses. We were shifting our feet impatiently as the garage took its time bringing our cars out to us. He spoke to me. “I’m getting engaged tonight,” he said. His name was Dan. On the assumption that his girlfriend would say yes, he had arranged an engagement party for the evening, with friends, music, food, dancing. I asked if he was pretty sure she was going to say yes. “We’re Jewish,” he said, “We talk a lot about these things in advance.” He didn’t have a ring yet, he told me. There would be time for that. Now he had to go home and change his shoes, if they would ever produce his car.

I hope Dan and his betrothed make many perfect cuts together. Not too fast, either.

 

 

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“I Like Trees, but…”

“Cut ’em all down, babe, cut ’em all down!” The man called out to me from his bicycle as I stood by a tree in my orange vest, taking notes on my clipboard about a giant white oak standing between the sidewalk and the street. Not the first time I’d heard this sentiment expressed, but always disappointing.

“It’s too high and too many mosquitos come into my room,” one woman complained about the specimen outside her window.

Three guys stood around a driveway on a mild March afternoon, shooting the shit. “Little things come off the trees and make a mess,” said the man with the pushbroom, clearing the gutter of maple twigs that had fallen in the recent rain.

“Can’t the city get us some little trees instead of these big ones?” asked his friend.

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Sometimes, rolling up on a big old black locust, the kind that casts its welcome shade all summer, the resident of the house behind it runs out: “Are you taking the tree down?” Not aghast at the prospect but delighted and hopeful that “their” tree would disappear. “The sap drops all over the tops of our cars,” I’ve heard.

Two times recently, in Queens and in the Bronx, I saw maples that had been girdled. Someone had stripped a wide circle of bark from around the trunk’s base — a technique for killing a tree.

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But why? Trees protect from the sun, they pour out oxygen to breathe, and on top of it all they’re beautiful to look at. Wouldn’t you like to have a statuesque linden in from of your house? But, but… trees are messy, with their litter of acorns dropping on the roof,  the pom pom london plane seed balls scattered across the sidewalks. If you walk barefoot when the sweet gum seeds come down the prickly pods would cut your feet!

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Ouch! But who walks barefoot in New York City?

Someone has to rake up the perfect leaves of the pin oak. What a pain.

I’m sorry, but if you can’t manage it I will.

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Pruning the Urban Forest

Going out to nurture the trees of New York City has given me plenty of surprises, not the least of which is the number of species to be found alongside the urban curbs. I was out in the snow recently to help put together a site survey, and I was blown away by the patterns and textures of the trunks we encountered — grey and furrowed, yes, but also yellow or red, with scruffy bark or horizontal lenticels that were dramatic gashes. When I used to think of trees it was mainly their leaves that appealed to me, green and elegant or the colors of a sunset. Now, having entered the urban forest to count specimens and prune them, I’m especially in awe of their stature, their trunks and branches naked, undisguised by the leafy canopy that usually cloaks them.

Here is an item I wrote for The New York Times Metropolitan Diary column which was published today.

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Goodbye to All That Merchandise

Today was my last shift at The Somewhat Fancy Ladies’ Clothing Store. No, I was not fired. My tenure as seasonal sales associate concluded in the same way it always does, at the end of winter, with the bright smocks and palazzos of spring entering the shop in dozens of boxes, and fewer and more pennypinching customers visiting to plump up their wardrobes. I am now extraneous.

So goodbye to fringed wool jackets, lace-edged tops and “girlfriend jeans”. Goodbye to daily sales goals and meeting the weekly plan. So long, Swiffer lint and the glint of bobby pins in the rug. Adios, the mask of makeup. Certain customers, I’m glad to see the back of you. You know who you are. On the other hand there is the man yesterday with wavy grey hair, kind eyes and a nose on him, who, passing by, saw the striped blouse in the window and knew it would look great on his wife. It would be a surprise. Husbands do the darndest things, I learned at the store. (Mine recently baked me a welcome-home cake, so there.)

I bought too many clothes with the seductive employee discount. Didn’t need any of them. The store was itself seductive, an explosion of color and texture that sometimes felt like a riotous dream. I felt trapped there sometimes, bored out of my skull, and at other times deeply fascinated by the intricacies of selling that dream to women and the rhythms of commerce. I think I learned more about modern American reality (something I usually do my best to avoid in my writerly life) from working there than any other experience I’ve had.

Today I left with one purchase, deeply discounted. A pair of earrings.

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Why do I like them so much? Well, what do they resemble? Nothing so much as glitzy acorns. A pair of earrings, a minimum wage souvenir, a transition, a talisman.

I’m going to prune trees in Queens tomorrow, the start of another season. Lipstick will not be mandatory.

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A Conversation in Snow

You should see how I look in summer, he told me. Not from the beach. Dark just from being up in the branches.

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Today there were driving snow showers in Queens. The tree pruner and the arborist hid from the cold for a while in the cab of the landscaping truck. He chainsmoked Newports, I warmed my fingers in the blasts of warm air from the windshield vents. He smokes up in the bucket too, wielding his saw at the same time.

When you prune a tree, you write your name across it, he told me. You have to be able to stand by that name. Out the window we could see those crazy old maples, the ones whose bark glints chartreuse with moss in the sun, now outlined in fresh snow. He had trimmed trees in much worse conditions, he said.

Sitting there, we listened to a radio show that scolded about climate change. The tree pruner never studied his art, he said, he learned by observation. Was I a Republican or a Democrat, he asked. He thought the two were basically identical, that the system was rigged. Was I a 9/11 truther, he asked. He was.

I was bundled like an Eskimo. He wore a windbreaker. He knew all the trees by their bark alone. He called london plane trees l.p.’s. After 25 years in the business, he had no pension to retire with.

Sometimes he looks back on his tree climbing days, he said. He was hired to scale mammoths, reporting back on infestations of Asian Longhorn Beetles, in Crocheron Park in Bayside, Queens. Sometimes he misses going up with the other guys, way high up, above it all, where they would play cards in the branches and drink soda and joke around, hitting each other with things.

He hopped out of the cab. A woman had come from her house in the snow to get his attention. He spoke to her briefly then hopped back in. She told me she was ninety-two years old, he said. That’s a life, said the pruner.

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A Snow Day for Books

Looking out from my desk over the sleeping swamp, the filagree of snow on reeds, globs of it hanging off the magnolia tree.

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I’m off of both jobs today and have the luxury of nothing to do but laundry and cooking and dishes. Oh yes, and writing book reviews. NPR Books is the loveliest employer because it lets me self assign and my editor is no slouch. I have a stack of seven books awaiting me on the coffee table, lined up for spring. I’ve gotten a kick out of the Clothing Store and I love being out on the streets with the trees, but literature is my heart.

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Scutwork

Working in The Somewhat Fancy Ladies’ Clothing Store can be tedious. I fold sweaters. Process returns, a mental challenge that is only getting slightly easier. Size the merchandise, meaning make sure the clothes go in the proper order on the rack. Take outfits off mannequins. Put outfits on mannequins. Wait for customers. Where are the customers? The mall is dead today. Adults are absent, home shovelling. The teenagers are all here, of course, haunting American Apparel and tussling. They would never come in to our store, which sells to ladies of a certain age. Mature. Silverhaired. Tasteful. Kind of like me.

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The glass doors shut at night and I become the low woman on the totem pole. The manager closes out the books. Someone has to clean the store. That someone is moi. 9:00 at night, my toes pinch me, I’m swiffering the length of the floorboards. It’s not surprising the amount of lint to be picked up, but somehow I’m surprised that the job falls to Jean Zimmerman.

I always think of the portrait Barbara Ehrenreich drew of her experience with a cleaning company, examining the minute and disgusting structure of dust castles under the furniture. When I was sixteen I farmed myself out as a housekeeper one day a week to neighbors, but ran in horror when I realized I had to clean their toilet bowls.

Now here I am. Me, the successful writer, whose fingers usually only touch a keyboard or a Uniball pen, wiping up the dust kicked up by customers. I write books, does anybody know that?! Of course I swiffer in my own home, but there is something different about cleaning up after strangers at the store. Now comes the vacuuming of the dressing rooms, crouching to pick up the detritus women leave behind – hair pins, clothing tags, bits of paper. Shoppers can bomb a dressing room in 10 minutes flat, explode the clothing inside out and every which way, after which I have to restore order.

This is honest work, I tell myself. Someone has to do it. Someone has to empty the garbage pails. My old feet hurt. Putting in new plastic trash bags. Can I go home now? My television and beer await me. My youngish manager counts the cash and calmly takes a look over at silverhaired, stooping me. Her menial days are past. Mine have just begun.

I wanted this job. I wanted a brainless break from writing, to make a buck or two, before tree season kicks in. I didn’t count on making the classy, intellectual person I thought I was into a maid.

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I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

Yesterday, the first day of winter, I bought jonquils, the hoity toity term for daffodils. I had taken my fill of soup dumplings and braised seaweed in Flushing, NY’s Chinatown and was rolling out to the car. Could that really be daffodils they were advertising in the shop window — cut flowers, an unexpected bouquet?

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Turns out they were not cut flowers but bulbs. I have another bulb working at home, an ethereal amaryllis, given to me by a botanically inclined friend, someone who knows how to grow everything. I had been lamenting the death of a fine cactus inadvertently left on a remote windowsill. Having something come to life in my house was very welcome.

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Daffodils in winter. The trees don’t show their green now, but the flowers will flaunt their yellow before long. In China they believe that forcing daffodils in the new year will bring good luck. I’ll put them in dishes on a nest of gravel from my driveway and hope they bloom, hope I have the luck to get good luck.

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These are some of the strangest looking bulbs I’ve ever seen. They will be mega-daffodils I’m sure. It’s hard not to think of Wordsworth writing in 1804 on the flower:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
   In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
   Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

A touch of the arbor in my living room as 2016 comes on.

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Storm Hardening

We live in a wooded area in the Hudson Valley where suburban tracts alternate with stone and clapboard homes tucked into areas of forest. In the middle of October, it dawned on residents along my street and others nearby that Con Edison had arrived and was systematically cutting down swaths of healthy trees along the sides of the road. Not small trees but 50 and 75 year oaks and maples were leveled – “a haircut” in the woods, as Gil said. More like a crew cut.

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The community got angry, naturally, and meetings took place with Con Ed and with town administrators, who first professed ignorance and then appeared to have give the permission to slice the town right-of-way property. It was too late. The roads are now lined with lopped off trunks and piles of sawdust.

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One girl told her mother,”Mom, it’s not the road I grew up on.”

Why did it happen? According to Con Ed, measures were taken to ensure that there was less risk of power outages in the event of a disaster like Superstorm Sandy. They called it “storm hardening.” And it’s true that transformers blow in this area when bad weather hits. We have lived candlelit lives for days. After my neighbors threw a collective fit, Con Ed left messages in mailboxes stating they would soon begin pruning trees rather than felling them and that their “professional foresters follow the International Society of Arboriculture guidelines.”  Not the ISA guidelines I’ve ever heard of. A friend and fellow arborist had a theory: peculation, in other words, grease. Someone gets paid a lot to take down trees.

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Woody may look happy, but he is still a stump. When trees come down they don’t come back.

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The Proper Way to Fold a Sweater

An arborist in winter can’t hibernate, even though it won’t be time to plant or nurture trees until the ground thaws in March. An arborist has got to make a living. And that’s how I wound up as a seasonal sales associate in a Somewhat Fancy Ladies’ Clothing Store in the local mall. I don’t think you could be farther from a grove of cedars than abiding in the canned air, holiday muzak and piles of goods for sale where I find myself day after day.

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The Zen concept of “beginner’s mind” applies here. If you approach everything with the earnestness of a novice, the world opens itself to you. I’m still so excited to put aside my decades long writerly habit, profession, vocation, avocation, love, and be out in the world. I’m thrilled to learn the proper way of folding a sweater (hint: there’s a special tool for the purpose). Weirdly, I feel that my long years speaking to groups about my books has prepared me to greet customers as they come in the door, looking for a different kind of knowledge, seeking to learn how they can look the best they can. A different kind of selling. What could be closer to the bone? It’s actually an honor to be consulted as I was today by a woman around my age about whether the lavender or grape turtleneck was a better complement to her features. These are the issues of my day, so simple.

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Is there shame in it, embarrassment at having descended from the lofty heights of authordom to become a shopgirl — or a shopwoman, as you must say about one of my maturity. The truth is there is no shame in any employment, since there are so many lacking jobs. Many of the women I work with have teenaged kids and no men in their lives, an interesting hardscrabble milieu. I remember when I interviewed Navy jet jocks many years ago they all talked about how valuable it was to be humbled, say by the complexity of the F-14 they flew, and they were some of the most arrogant people in the world. So I guess I’ll take a leaf from them and say that treading the boutique floor is a healthy kind of normal for me, a down to earth slap upside the head for one who has spent a lot of time with that head in the clouds.

So the mannequins and the silk and the glitter of the Somewhat Fancy Ladies’ Clothing Store are my grove of trees for now. I go home more tired than I did after eight hours as an arborist, even though I’m working half days. My mind races when I try to sleep at night, seeing corduroy jeans and good wool jackets doing do-si-dos. It’s a form of truth worth being a part of, peoples’ desire to be beautiful. The leaves and branches and bark will be there in the springtime.

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The Secrets of Washington Square

I have always been fascinated by the early history of New York City’s Washington Square. Once upon a time, as shown in a 1782 document called The British Headquarters Map, a waterway called Minetta Brook passed from around 21st Street and Fifth Avenue down through Washington Square and on to Greenwich Village. The waters of this ancient stream still run through some downtown basements.

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The early topography of Manhattan was to change rapidly in the 19th century, and the park changed too. Graceful row houses went up on Washington Square North in the 1820s. But the reputation of the square was mixed, and public executions still took place there– in 1820, for example, a servant named Rose Butler was convicted of arson and hung there.

And it was a potter’s field, after its swamp was drained in the 1790s, interring the City’s indigent, receiving 22,000 bodies over time. Residents were spooked by a yellow fever epidemic so the graveyard moved uptown. The city bought more land around the square and the Washington Parade-Ground was established, opening July 4th with that mainstay of early America, an ox roast. A crowd of ten thousand attended. More elegant homes gradually went up on the south and north sides of the park. Henry James would situate his incisive novel Washington Square in one of them in 1880.

 

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But all those bodies underfoot. Did you say potters field? Walking under the arch (erected as a temporary grace note in 1889 out of plaster and wood, then made permanent in Tuckahoe marble, designed by Stanford White in 1892), I found myself obsessed with what lay beneath my feet.

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In June, I accompanied a Con Ed team to install a new gas line at the junction of Washington Square East and Washington Square South. It was a cloudy day, spitting rain. The canopy of a forty-foot honeylocust tree spread above us, its trunk behind the park’s iron fence, in its maturity at least 75 years old. A short distance away, also on the park grounds, stood its neighbor, a nearly-as-tall linden. The three-foot-deep trench the crew was excavating along the sidewalk turned out to be dug on top of a previous trench, and there were no roots of any kind to protect, so all I did was observe.

The foreman was late to the job, I noted, then smoked a cigar and threw the butt in the pit. I had already taken a turn through the park and learned from a handy Parks Department sign that the goldenrain tree was introduced to America in 1763 from Japan. Not this particular specimen, which would then be over 200 years old. I hopped over a metal chain-link divider and held one hand against the bark – as usual no one bothered me with my blaze orange vest, which invests me with instant authority. The trees of Washington Square Park were all so beautiful, especially against the wool-grey sky.

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But did you say bodies underfoot? Six months after my work there a tremendous discovery was announced. Just down the street from where my Con Ed crew was digging in the rust-colored fill that day, a little up Washington Square East, another crew of diggers, these preparing to install a new water main, hit a brick arch only three and a half feet beneath sidewalk level. Through a gap they saw human remains. A second vault was then discovered. A stone was removed, a line of sight. And there were coffins, two dozen or so, including, poignantly, the small coffins of children. Some of the coffins bore lozenge-shaped identification plates.

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Excavation stopped, of course. Who were these people? Archaeologists came on site and revealed that at least two churches had cemetaries in the vicinity in the 1820s, and these could be them. It turned out that the first vault had been discovered once before, by Con Ed workers, years ago, who saw about 25 skeletons.

I felt as though I just missed the discovery, back in June, distracted by the honeylocust and linden trees. If only we had known to dig a little deeper. Six inches would be enough. There is so much to find beneath the ground, if you know where to look.

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O Christmas Tree

Went to a Christmas tree farm the day after Thanksgiving. I never thought I’d be a person to get a tree before finishing the leftovers but here I was. Battenfeld’s, in the Hudson Valley, had as many cars as it did trees. The weather was like spring.

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And dozens of tailgaters made me jealous. I wished we’d brought some chairs and a cooler.

The ranks of trees were mapped in an app you could download: Balsam, White Pine, Douglas Fir, etc., conveniently organized. There was no paper map. Among the beefy, eight-foot specimens you could find the stumps and relics of past years, someone’s Christmas come and gone.

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We comparison shopped, topping our fat Concolor with a glove to mark our spot.

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Concolor is another name for the White Fir. The most ancient of these eastern trees can get to 350 years old. I heard one of the workers explain that his mother always wanted one because they have the scent of oranges.

A friend was intent on bringing home a blue spruce.

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They have that beautiful hue, but their needles make you understand why they are called needles, they are that spiny.

Someone had to cut down our tree. That would be Gil. Ours was, he said, the Plato’s Cave of trees.

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Peter took plenty of pictures, documenting our U-Pick adventure. Then the day was over, except for dragging the tree away. I learned how wonderful it can be to wander among the conifers, as unnaturally as they are grouped and bred and groomed at a farm. Nothing is left to accident. In the world we live in, it is reassuring to spend time in a place that is accident free.

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Putting the Season to Bed

The leaves have just about all fallen. I was able to identify a horsechestnut – compoundly palmate leaves, in other words resembling your hand – only by a few crisp specimens that hadn’t yet crumbled in the gutter.

Leaf Horse chestnut

I spent a day driving around Brooklyn visiting tree pits that had been disturbed in the process of putting in new sidewalks and that needed fresh topsoil. A young, ceaselessly energetic landscaper named Byron and I hopped from Hendrix Street to Bergen Street to Benson Avenue, giving modest Ginkgoes a light blanket of earth the color of pumpernickel. We were putting them to bed.

ginkgo topsoil

The topsoil provides nutrients for those roots that had just been nudged by shovels and backhoes, but beyond that it’s just a beautiful coating, a frame for the urban trunks and limbs that deserve the best exhibition possible. If it were me walking out my front door in the morning, I would like to see a tree with its feet in that rich, dark dirt.

Visiting tree after tree, I felt melancholy. I knew that this was the last gasp of the season for me. From now on it will be too cold to pour concrete, too frigid for planting, and an arborist has nothing to do but hibernate with the bears. This has actually been three seasons, spring, summer and fall, but it feels like one rush of communion with trees and tree culture, which I’m so grateful to have stumbled into.

I’ve loved the prehistoric looking roots of plane trees pushing out over the sidewalk. Nothing can stop them.

Plane foot

It’s difficult to tell the types of deciduous trees without their leaves, and so I don’t know whether the two dead giants that crashed across our driveway this fall were oaks or maples or sweetgums. Gil’s chainsaw rendered them into neat circles ready to decompose in pieces in the forest, the final stage in the existence of a tree. Meanwhile, the stored power of the living trees all around is banked like a fire, waiting for the warm weather, which I think of as I lie on the couch watching the kiln-seasoned logs burn in our fireplace, with half an eye watching the men wage war in Kagemusha.

Sad as I am to leave the world of trees until the end of winter, I tell myself that the change of season is not a dying, but a gathering of energy, required for the buds that will soon enough come around.

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