Monday, February 18, 2008

Rodents in Trees


It does happen here, usually accompanied by an east wind. Both today.

Saturday Gary and two associates came by. They offered to cut out some dead limbs and branches from two big-leaf maples in the back yard, then haul the mess away. We negotiated. I also wanted some dead limbs taken off the trunk of the biggest Douglas fir in the back yard. We worked out a deal. Gary got to work.

Gary, it turned out, was a human fly. He'd gotten into rock climbing in his teens, found climbing trees much easier. He climbed the maples and trimmed as much as it was safe to trim without a ladder, spikes or harness of any kind--not even a rope to haul the McCulloch chainsaw up the tree. Watching him climb the trunk of the fir tree above my extension ladder using the nubs of some dead and rotten limbs and other more sound ones as foot- and handholds was both frightening and fascinating. Glad the job is done. It was necessary.

But the trimming won't save the maples. They are slowly dying. Actually, they are being killed by the squirrels. Last spring I watched the ravenous little rodents mercilessly attacking the tree, muching on bark. They are girdling whole limbs and branches, picking on the tenderest growth at the top where it's too high to trim. They are killing both trees from the top down.

Squirrels in the wilds of our back yard live an average of perhaps three years. The trees are perhaps 50 years old. I built quite a sizable treehouse on the two of them when our daughter was a kid. It was a popular neighborhood hangout for a number of years. I even slept in the treehouse a couple of hot summer nights back then. But the treehouse is long gone, and so is our daughter.

The trees are taller than ever, but the little red squirrels are killing them. One can forgive the squirrels for their shortsightedness. The trees have to them an incomprehensible life span. To the rodents, the trees have always been there and always will be. The squirrels conduct no studies of sustainability of their lifestyles and leave no written record of their damaging way of life for future generations of the little buggers to learn from. As long as they can get up in the morning and have something to gnaw on, they assume everything is cool. But it isn't. Their life support system is dying right before their eyes. They are the cause of it.

One can forgive the squirrels. They don't have the wherewithal to know better.

We humans do. So why are we acting like a bunch of squirrels?

I will miss the big-leaf maples when they are gone. I won't miss all the seeds they drop, seeds which the squirrels munch on like trail mix. But I will miss the shade and the big leaves. Last fall, after a very dry summer, the trees still managed to produce a miracle. As I was raking up leaves to add to the compost bin, I came across one beauty of brown, tan and yellow, the faintest hint of green still on its tip. I pressed and dried it. I will frame it. It measures 22-7/8 inches from stem to tip. One leaf. It will always remind me of the shady back yard when we first moved here in 1978, the yard where our daughter and her friends grew and played.

It will always remind me of this spot of earth that saved my life. God's creation does that because God does.

We have the ability to know how our way of life is undoing God's life support system of earth. We know it, have known it for quite some time.

So why are we still acting like a bunch of rodents in trees?

There is shalom, and there is broken shalom. There is a difference. One sustains life. One does not.


Pastor Roger

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