Earlier this week I passed by three small, slender trees struggling to survive on Golden Gate avenue and, with the oncoming summer dry season in mind, I thought, maybe a few times this summer I’ll put a water jug in my pack and come out here to try and keep these poor guys going.
It’s not easy being a small tree in the Civic Center area. During the workday it’s not too bad, as the neighborhood’s full of office workers, street people, and those who have business in the area, mostly with government offices.
But at night the wackadoos rule. Drugs and their toll are always evident here, with varying degrees of madness and desperation, amid the lashings out of those with nothing left to lose, and it’s not uncommon for the mess next dawn to include small branches torn from trees, their still-green leaves beginning to curl and die.
Yet these three had survived. They were seven or eight feet tall now, with evidence of lost limbs and damage, but there was plenty of new greenery at the tops of two of them and the other, saddest of all, had hopeful green sprouts pushing out its trunk.
I think that was the one that kind of got me. I wanted to give it a drink of water, to slip out once every couple weeks or so and give it a chance to heal, survive and grow. It had enough roots, it had a trunk and a limb left, all it needed was a little help.
And now they’re gone. A massive building project up the block, putting in a new parking ramp, has spilled over and now the entire block is all torn up. The parking lane and even the sidewalk is removed, all evidence of the trees is gone. Well, the end presumably came fast.
Yet it’s odd to me that I can feel compassion for the trees but have become so inured to the human madness, to the angry, unwashed, and unhinged, that I pass them by, simply shaking my head at their requests as I’m unwilling to finance their next heroin or crack cocaine purchase.
We do give to charities. I guess the only explanation that comes to mind is that the trees had no choice – but I’m not sure that’s adequate.
Maybe it’s simply that, when I offer a little sustenance to a tree, a cool drink on a hot, dry day in the concrete amidst the heat and the car exhaust, that short silent communion is enough of a respite, a balm inside a busy day, all by itself.