She still rode with training wheels when we first stopped by the tree, a wind gnarled conifer, perched high on a bluff above a frequently empty expanse of flat beach. The big hill was too much for her, so exhausted and hot, we stopped in its shade to drink some water and rest. Over the years, every holiday & every bike ride, as she outgrew one bike then another, we always stopped at what came to be called “favourite tree,” to rest, climb some branches, take a little water or enjoy the view.
Now favourite tree is gone.
A few shards of favourite tree’s roots are still visible in what is now a bare patch of ground. There is no shade there now, no reason to stop except for the vain hope that if we are still and quiet enough we might hear the echoes of past happy moments swirling amongst the afternoon breeze.
She had a premonition of favourite tree’s fate on our last trip. The training wheels a distant memory she’s now a teen with a growing sense society doesn’t always honour its promises. Every visit the tree seemed to be in worse shape, ever more aggressively and ruthlessly cut back, some of its longest and most charming branches having been long ago severed. The last afternoon of our last holiday here, we even hugged the rough stem of the tree and thanked it for the role it had played in our lives, worried we might not see it again.
Favourite tree died to make way for cars, concrete, & convenience, the victim of a country that no longer seems to value ecology, or the deep connections & sense of place the experience of the nature can provide.
It’s just a tree the government technocrats might say. In a country where economics is the only tool of social policy what value can a tree have? Best to not be sentimental about things like this lest we seem unable to bend to the demands of ruthless efficiency.
But a life without sentiment & symbolism is flat, vain & worthless, little more than an materialistic circus performed only for the approval of others based either on how much is acquired or how little of the self is given in the process of acquisition.
In the end favourite tree had no value in this saltless view of human existence. But there’s no denying the salt of our tears. We loved favourite tree and in her shade we learnt to love each other and ourselves as well.