one tree hill.
Image by San Sharma
There was a television advert for a bank or an insurance company – I don’t remember which exactly – but I’m pretty sure it was for an organisation for whom the level of emotion was completely inappropriate.
It featured a montage of faces, each dreamily looking upwards, sharing the wishes that were somehow facilitated by said organisation.
"I want to be a gymnast,"
"I want to be teacher,"
"I want to be a sex pest," and so on.
And, the closing thought, "I want to be a tree."
The latter was my mum’s favourite. She likes trees – she couldn’t quite see how banking or taking out insurance would allow her to become one. But the thought became something of a catch phrase for her. "I want to be a tree," she often said, dreamily looking upwards, fantasising of a life more peaceful and serene.
Well, that dream has slowly been hacked away at for several years. And last night it came crashing to the ground, when my dad committed axe to trunk and bought the whole fucking tree down.
Concerned that it was growing out of control, dad was determined to assert his, and fell the tree that loomed over a main road in our front garden.
Obviously, there are precautions that need to be taken when dealing with a felling so close to a busy road. For my dad these precautions, and the costs involved in taking them, were to be – at all times – avoided.
The tree, he decided, would be felled by himself, his shopkeeper friend, a chainsaw, and a bit of rope. And in the hope that the twenty-foot beech tree would fall this way and not that – onto the road and to the injury or death of its innocent users.
But, while still shedding the tree of its branches, onlookers must have observed this potential tragedy and complained; for when the police arrived the men dropped their chainsaws and their plans.
But not for good.
Determined to fell this tree, without any financial cost to himself, and undeterred by the warnings of the police (and soon after the local council and two tree surgeons), my dad decided that he would return to the tree, under the cloak of darkness. And, if his shopkeeper friend wouldn’t join him, he’d get his best man on the job.
81-year-old war veteran, John would trade his walking stick for a chainsaw and fell the tree in exchange for fire wood, such was his quality of life. He lived alone, in the bad end of town, and would use the wood to heat his abode through to the summer, if he’d make it.
To my dad being compassionate and frugal were two mutually exclusive things. You couldn’t be one and the other. Saving money, he thought, was a cruel thing. And so he watched as the old man boarded a step ladder and began to saw at the wood.
But before they were done, the local council returned. The tree, they suggested, may not be ours after all. My dad may be fined, the old man deprived of his fire wood and my mum, whose dreams had been dashed, sawed and partially felled, proven right, after all.
Being cheap and wise, she’d always insisted, were mutually exclusive. In trying to save money my dad had incurred additional costs. And had he learned his lesson?
"I think I’ll get John to make a start on the tree in the back garden," he said over dinner the following night.
"Why don’t you just do it the right way," my mum said. "For once."
With that she got down from the table and stood her ground, strong and firm. And not at all unlike a tree.