Lucky to be here

Well, there, strictly speaking, as I am back home now.

I had a further opportunity to work in the trees in Green-Wood cemetery in Brooklyn, NY with Phil Kelley.

What can I say? It is a true privilege to be able to work on such a unique collection of trees in a very special setting, starting a climb in a bucolic setting, surrounded by headstones, bird song and trees, to be surprised by the view from the top of the canopy, offering stunning vistas over Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Upper New York Bay.

Impressions I took home with me this time were for instance of a silver maple that retrenched itself, beautiful, impressive and brimming with vitality. I was considering one stem with a large cavity at its base, wondering whether to take some weight off the top, so I gave it good old kick to see how it moved – upon which I heard a strange wheezing sound and a plop, and saw a racoon streaking away below me. Poor thing had obviously been snoozing in the cavity, to be unceremoniously dumped onto the ground. This was another distinctive theme of this visit: racoons galore, they seemed to be everywhere and racoon poop., with trees with literally every limb covered in the stuff. Ho-hum. Then again, who are we humans to complain about other creatures making a mess: we are, after all, hard to top! Masters of disaster.

We also did some work and installation bracing systems on a large beech tree. Due to the number of stems and position of the weak unions we ended up having to place an absolute spider’s web-worth of braces up there!

The main thing I take away every time from these visits is a lesson in being humble.

We may like to think that we are like the Lorax in Dr. Seuss’ books and that we speak for the trees – yet in truth we do not. We do not know better than the trees. These beings have millions years of experience when it comes to survival strategies and how to manage their shape and form. We are but a blink of an eyelid in this story. Time and again I come across trees that every one of us would probably condemn without a moment’s hesitation – yet there they are, still standing, braving wind and weather. It just goes to show how often trees have a much higher degree of resilience than we credit them with and that we tend to remove them much earlier than is strictly speaking necessary. Partly this is understandable if you are operating in a risk-adverse environment, which is probably true of many of us.

All the more I commend Joe Charap and the rest of the team at Green-Wood for going out on a limb for these beautiful, veteran trees – beautiful, damaged and dignified, despite or maybe because of all their faults and defects.