Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Requium for a Tree

Just recently, the Rowan tree outside my old house was found to have Fire Blight, a progressive disease that was threatening to spread to other foliages. It used to grow red berries that I was told never to eat, because they were poisonous. I didn't think much of it when these berries stopped growing several years ago. I'd only recently noticed that there were some dead branches near the top, but didn't put it much attention, since I thought it was perfectly natural.  I used to climb that tree all the time when I was a kid, using my foot as a foothold in the knothole. Just before I knew that the tree was going to be cut down, I tried to relive my previous climbing encounters. Turns out I'm more out of shape than I thought. I couldn't even manage to lift my body up the main limb without falling back down. (Of course, I'm also significantly heavier than when I was a kid, but that's no excuse) After my first failed encounter and feeling the jolt of landing on the ground, I promptly gave up. It doesn't take much to convince me to quit doing much strenous activity nowadays.

Several days after I received the diagnosis, and the woodcutters were appointed to come, I was told that there was a bird in the tree. At first, I thought it was another bird's nest, which could've complicated the sudden removal of the supporting structure, but after some clarification, it turned out to be a temporary residence in the form of a woodpecker instead. For some reason, my dad found the back-and-forth motion of the woodpecker's rapid action against the dead tree bark very amusing to look at.

A few days later, the lumberjacks came to fell the tree, which they fed into a woodchipper without a single human body to get rid of the evidence. So now, all that's left of the tree is a lonely stump lying in the grass, waiting for it to either be covered in grass or have a replacement tree planted next to its remains.

If my sister were a more emotional woman as she was in her youth, we would've been in the vicinity of a crying match and virtual tree-hugger territority. But she's all grown up now and has gained some maturity points after leaving the roost, and thus didn't experience any loss, and thus, no family drama resulted. If this verdict happened much sooner, it could've very well been something out of Margot et Sac a Puces.

Margot et Sac a Puces (Margot and Fleabag) is about a girl and her dog. Well, it's a little more complicated and sophisticated than that. The girl is living with her family of five children and a baby, and her father isn't a fan of the dog Fleabag, partly because he's a stray covered in fleas, hence his name. Even so, Margot keeps seeing the dog on a regular basis, thanks to Fleabag sneaking into the house via a hidden key, and she keeps sneaking out to meet her unofficial pet at a secret rendezvous.

Margot is also the only one who can understand what the dog is saying. As anthropomorphic as the mutt is, I've never seen Fleabag talk to anyone else, though much of what he conveys comes across perfectly well in pantomime. For as much as they declare their love towards each other, there's nothing sexual about it. It's a childhood romance where two beings simply enjoy being in each others company. They laugh, play, get into fights, argue, make up, complain, make-believe, talk, and pretty much anything they can think of. They're closer to friends than lovers.

This late-night partying is taking place at Chestnut Tree school, so aptly named for the large tree that takes residence of the main playground area. From the size and date of romantic graffiti etched into the bark, it's safe to say it's over a hundred years old.

The next day, most of the school activities are educational and entertaining as usual, but otherwise pretty uneventful. Until one perfectly ordinary day during the end of recess where a slightly anal teacher is giving the students grief for not lining up properly.

Spurned on by the possibility that their favorite chestnut tree might very well be removed, the children go around the neighborhood making their cause be heard. However, their efforts at gathering public approval is brought to naught when it's discovered that the Principal is making a list of alternate names for the school once the tree's taken down.

Once this nugget of information comes out, the students are dismayed to find out that their petition would have no effect in the school's decision, so they decide to take matters into their hands to truly make their point of how much they love their tree heard.

That's not a speech balloon, that's a cardboard cutout to give a literal physical manifestation of the Lorax's "speaking for the trees", for the trees have no tongues.

The lyrics the Principal is singing are from Autumn Leaves, (The Dead Leaves in the original French) The literal original lyrics were "The dead leaves collected at the..." It's possible that something's gotten a little lost in the translation. However, what's not left misunderstood is that the children are willing to any reasonable lengths to do whatever's necessary to preserve their favorite tree. They've basically developed their rebel group, easily identified by their chestnut tattoos with indelible ink, and their rallying cry of Marre! Marre! Marronnier!, which I've loosely translated as Jest! Just! Chestnut!

Faced with the prospect of a whole school against him, the Principal decides to appeal to their better sense by applying logic to counter their arguments, because as every parent know, children will respond better to logic than emotions, right?

After that stunning rebuttal, the teachers and principal engage over a debate over whether it's better to keep the tree at the expense of the students. an appeal is spoken from an old woman whose name was carved onto the bark of the tree; deliberations are made, and after a long meeting, a consensus is reached that should please all parties.

However, notice the man in the black suit running past the teacher? That's the tree surgeon's who's completed his report on the tree, and has concluded that it is already beyond saving, and has to be put down.

On Saturday morning, Fleabag finds out that the chestnut tree is going to be taken down, and hastily gives the news to Margot, not caring for her parents displeasure of having a mangy dog in the house. She rallies her friends through the grapevine, and make their way to the school and arrive just in time to see the timberman put the chop to their favorite tree.

So all their effort to save their tree was for nothing.

...Well, not exactly. In light of their extreme devotion and appreciation for their beloved historical landmark, the remains of the tree were refurbished to create a new organic playground, with some of the original carvings still intact.

In addition to this new playground, a new chestnut tree has just been planted to commemorate this new addition, and the school is renamed Baby Chestnut Tree School. Chances are that name won't be changed for a good twenty years or so.

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