Beloved Tree

When people use the word “wild” they tend to mean things like chaotic, or crazy, or uncontrollable. People might say, “He was a wild man!" Or, "Look how wildly she dresses!" I have an illustration that I hope reveals the true meaning of that magical and misused word.

My husband, Ken, and I lived in the East Village of Manhattan for eight years. Then we decided we were ready for a new scene. We had enough of what you might call wild parties across the hall and the wildneighbors that lived below us.

Ken found a new apartment on the Upper West Side within a week. When I walked in, I gasped. From the entrance, I could see a beautiful tree filling all of the windows. It was stunning. We moved in soon after.

Throughout the years, we have watched all kinds of birds move in and around the tree. Tufted Titmice held onto the fire escape sideways and peered at us with big, black eyes. Finches, doves, and blue jays, also paid regular visits. Birds we couldn't name migrated and sang through our world of tree life. One time, a young raccoon exploring the tree stepped carefully through its strong branches and scared the bejeezus out of poor Lily the cat.

After a while, we started calling our tree, “Tree.” We admired her. In the autumn, Tree turned a bright, bursting orange. In the winter, soft, white snow often covered Tree’s beautiful branches. During Hurricane Sandy, we watched her bend and bend, but she didn’t break.

One day, four years ago, I happened to be home sick from work. There were men outside putting upscaffolding near Tree. They could have easily moved her branches aside but instead they just wildly hacked away at her!

I telephoned the super and demanded to know what was going on. The super replied that he had wanted to cut down Tree for some time and made excuses about Tree taking water from the nearby pipes. I wrote the building management and receive assurance that Tree was safe. She soon recovered, sprouting beautiful new greenery around the damage.

About eight months ago, Ken luckily happened to be home. This time, the super from the building next door hired a guy to use one of those lifting machines to chop Tree's branches above the spot where he parks his car. Ken threw open the windows in his boxer shorts without a shirt and - some might say - wildly told that super off. He pointed and shouted, “There’s the property line! There’s the property line!” They stopped working. 

About a month ago, we were both at home during the day and learned that the owners planned to tear down the building next to us and next to Tree. We were there for the whole thing, listening to the chain saw, watching them - wildly climbing up her trunk with those boots with hooks and putting her piece by piece into the wood chipper. We both cried that day.

Perhaps we misuse this word wild because we’re afraid of wildness. We want to chop it down, control it. Better words for the parties in the East Village would be loud, or disturbing, not wild. The guys hacking away at Tree’s branches were more destructive than wild. When Ken yelled out the window in his underwear, he was being protective, or even threatening, but not wild.

Tree was wild! The songbirds were wild. YOU are wild. Your own natural state is wildness. There is biology and growth and life happening in you. Don’t be afraid of it. You are a part of nature. You can’t control nature but that doesn’t mean it’s chaotic. The words wild animal don’t mean crazy animal. They mean something much more complicated and hard to understand... Consider that there is more wisdom and intelligence in Mother Nature's DNA than in the repetitive thoughts and definitions that run through our minds. Sit with the idea of your wildness as your depth and mystery and see where that leads you.