The Great Tree Massacre

I was in the kitchen this morning kneading bread, trying to work past my resentment of the chainsaws whining next door. The one, the only, good thing about the people next door was the magnificent monkey pod tree at the back of their property. Now they are having it cut down, branch by agonizing branch, week by agonizing week. I hear the gut-wrenching scream of the chainsaw and then a loud crack and then another stately limb falls to its death. It feels like the tree is being tortured, slowly and with malice, wounded stumps protruding from the trunk, slowly emerging bald spots in its scalp shorn of deep green leaves. I don’t want to look, but can’t not look.

As I worked, I heard a thump outside a front window, both too soft and to loud for the wind. Twitch, napping on a cushion in a patch of sunlight, looked up briefly but seemed unconcerned.

Clasping my flour-coated hands, I padded toward the window. I peered at the glass and saw a tiny feather stuck to it. Several others were scattered across the concrete ledge under the window. I guessed that one of the little grey birds that twitter around our garden had flown into the glass, perhaps intoxicated by the scent of the gardenia bush. Looking down, I didn’t see a stunned, quivering body. Looking up, I saw only a clear blue sky festooned with wisps of feather-light cloud. Twitch had already gone back to sleep.

As the bread baked, I basked in the comfort of the female scent of warm yeast, thrilled to the baby’s-bottom texture of dough against my palms, reveled in the anticipation of a warm, crusty loaf, sliced and crowned with butter and passion fruit jam.

This one fairly insignificant day in my life feels like a reflection in miniature of the world outside. Sometimes the largest and most powerful is at the mercy of something small, Goliath the Tree vs. Samson the Chainsaw. Sometimes someone small is battered by his own foolishness, my tiny avian Emperor in his New Clothes. Sometimes the simple combination of yeast and flour and milk and honey can make all of that all right.