Books are a forest and it’s hard to see the trees, except the tall ones or the old ones. But when you enter the forest, it’s the new growth that emits the sunlight....

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

On individual attention for trees, people, and books

Because of an antiquated sewer system and a plan for road widening, about 200 boulevard trees were chopped down on East Fourth Street in Duluth a few months ago. Third and Second Streets are both one-way so most people could skirt the process conveniently. It all happened in about a week. One day, walking, I saw the tree removal and my footsteps seemed to sink into the ground as my spirit sorrowed. I could only walk by once.

Fall on Fourth Street, 2014

Fourth Street, March, 2016
I am glad I took this dreamy picture on the sidewalk of one residence when all the trees were there. A lovely entrance to a front yard. But the vines on this portal were ripped, I last saw, and stumps were near it. 

Although there are many troubles in the world and although the Duluth area is filled with trees, this symbolized something for me. It was the lack of individual attention. Sewer work has been going on in Duluth for years. Roads have been excavated with huge cushioning tires revealed under them. 

At another location where I lived, a side street was opened up. The workmen finally removed a boulevard tree. An elderly woman in the house behind the tree was angry because that tree had beautiful fall color. The tree wasn't very old so it was said that its root system wouldn't survive the bulldozer. 

A boulevard tree in my current view was near an excavation but it wasn't felled. Unfortunately, its spectacular fall color, what enhanced my bedroom view, was a dull, short-lived yellow the next year. Two springs later, the tree did not grow leaves at all. The city finally put a red X on it, and a few weeks later, chopped it down. Before they did, a crow sat on it. Quoth the crow, nevermore. I'm sorry I didn't get the picture. But it would only look like a crow sitting on a winter tree.

There is a fragrant lilac smell and blossoming on young trees in the neighborhood. I asked people what these new trees were but didn't encounter anyone who knew. Someone on Faceboook suggested that they were Japanese lilac trees and linked me. That was the tree.

University tree experts could not predict how many of the 200 trees would survive the Fourth Street excavation. I wished they had been allowed the chance to survive. I know that when a tree dies and a crow mourns it, the tree removal guys are not resented. But the widening of Fourth Street caused the trees to be treated as a group or even a population.

This brought to mind refugees and the challenge of numbers versus individual attention. The displacement of so many people presents a much more urgent crisis for governments. Books are the focus of this blog and the problem is there. More books are being published than ever before while the sorting of them is difficult, more important than it would seem to be. I have to admire the used books trade for sorting old books. Young people looking for jobs often feel that they are not really considered. People displaced don't want their lives sorted out in large groups. 

Before the internet, many people felt anonymous, desperate for their resume to be noticed. Urban identities tended to be stereotyped to a group. The internet and its documentation was a kind of savior. At its advent, people thought they would be treated as numbers in the hands of a robot. Surprisingly, computer life developed into a restoration of identity, easily found. There appeared to be hope that a person could find themself amid large numbers of people. And the computer saved trees.

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