You may glare
And cry “Unfair!”
I do not care.
I will not share.
A damselfly in no distress
Pauses now to take a rest.
A hovering visitor:
It makes me wonder what they’re putting in the soil around here.
The perimeter of a garden not far from where I live was lined, until recently, with mature evergreen trees. They numbered about a dozen: tall, beautiful, and busy with songbirds and various other life forms. Then they were gone, leaving only a series of pitiful stumps. It happened virtually overnight; the following day, the stumps were reduced further, almost to ground level. (See photo; click to enlarge.)
I’d like to give the landowners the benefit of the doubt, but it’s hard to think of a justifiable reason for their decision. Even if they had one, it’s still a great shame. Anyway, the company employed to fell the trees and remove the timber had a curious sign, and you know how difficult it is for me to resist writing about curious signs.
That “TREE CARE” is obviously and wildly misleading needs no emphasis or elaboration. “Tree Pruning In Progress” made me wonder if there was a sense in which pruning could mean chopping down. I grew up with the idea that pruning was a kind of cultivation: removing dangerous, dead, or superfluous growth, usually to serve a plant’s best interests — essentially a modest and beneficent reduction of the organism. This kind of pruning is visible and audible as I type (see photo, left).
So off I set for the dictionaries. Here are some relevant findings:
Oxford English Dictionary: 1. Cut down, shorten or abbreviate by cutting, esp. by removing superfluous or unwanted matter. Also, remove as superfluous or unwanted. Marston’s text—judiciously pruned… 2. Trim (a tree, shrub, or plant) by cutting or lopping dead or overgrown branches, twigs, or shoots, esp. to increase fruitfulness and regular growth. Freq. followed by down. Prune the plants . . . down to the last active growth. 3. Cut or lop (dead or overgrown branches, twigs, or shoots) from a tree or shrub, esp. to increase fruitfulness and regular growth. Freq. followed by off, away.
Merriam-Webster: transitive verb 1 a : to reduce especially by eliminating superfluous matter <pruned the text> <prune the budget>; b : to remove as superfluous <prune away all ornamentation>; 2 : to cut off or cut back parts of for better shape or more fruitful growth <prune the branches>; intransitive verb : to cut away what is unwanted or superfluous.
Macmillan: 1. prune or prune back: to remove parts of a tree or plant, for example to make it grow better. We’ll need to prune back the branches this year. 2. to get rid of something that you do not need or want, especially in order to reduce the size or cost of something. Companies must continually prune costs to stay competitive.
American Heritage Dictionary: Transitive. 1. To cut off or remove dead or living parts or branches of (a plant, for example) to improve shape or growth. 2. To remove or cut out as superfluous. 3. To reduce: prune a budget. Intransitive. To remove what is superfluous or undesirable.
It seems, then, that chopping down trees can, at a stretch, be described as pruning. But it’s rather misleading because in a botanical context the word carries the chief and plant-friendly sense I mentioned in paragraph 3 above. And then there’s that phrase “TREE CARE”, which is laughably inaccurate, at least in this instance. It’s the kind of care I associate with organised crime (They took care of Louie, huh?)
Two euphemisms in seven words is an impressive count — more impressive than the paltry 10% tree cover Ireland currently claims, very little of which comprises native species. Call me a tree hugger if you wish — I’ve called myself worse — but I’d like to see more signs like this:
And fewer stumps and eyes of Sauron:
Though humble be
I’d rather rise
Then back to earth
In time for spring
And colour bring.
When winter ends
And seasons cross,
No Mister Frost
No Scrooge or Grinch
Would fail to thaw
In new Seanhenge.
I dedicate this short whimsical poem to Omnium (a blog whose title will be familiar to Flann O’Brien fans), and to all its inhabitants and visitors, human and otherwise. There is a garden there, of both earthly and cosmic delights; Seanhenge is its name. It is well tended, and accordingly rich in flora and fauna, sometimes bearing the most unusual and intrepid fruit.
It is difficult to discern where Seanhenge ends and Omnium begins, since Seanhenge is there but also here, and Omnium is everywhere! In any case, Seanhenge is blessed with the consummate host: he is witty and welcoming, just and generous, sincere and surprising, cheerful and cherished. I am lucky to have wandered into his garden and its gathering of good people. Sean will not mind, I think, if I invite you to visit and explore for yourself.
Please forgive the pun in the title. Once it arose, it could not be resisted. Here is a view from a garden in the countryside last weekend:
More leaves, same garden:
This blue tit spent a lot of time flitting about in the tree outside my window yesterday. Plenty of green-leaf cover for this time of year!
Edited to include this (cropped) photo of a seal that watched me watching it in Galway Bay a few weeks ago:
Finally, a church window that seems to be wearing headphones after a recent shower:
I have a few longer posts half written, but their completion will have to wait: I’m currently bedevilled by a head cold that has left me incapable of thinking properly. Luckily, though, my ability to see imaginary DJs on the sides of buildings has not been impaired.
Although my writing has been severely curtailed, my Twittering has not. It will take more than an eruption of sniffing, sneezing, snuffling and snorting to stop me micro-blogging. So if you want to pass a few idle moments, you’ll find links and more on my Twitter page. What passes for normal service on Sentence first will soon be resumed.