Teri Orr: Out of sync
The unexpected, heavy wet snow, two weeks ago, proved to be too much for some of the living things in my yard. I lost one entire tree — an aspen but still… And I lost big branches from a maple and smaller ones from the scrub oak. The hollyhocks shriveled up and vines — of some undetermined nature — withered on … well, themselves.
Texts were sent out that morning in my cul de sac. We alerted one another to places in our yards others could see — in back, around the sides — where we saw tree limbs touching the ground. A call was made to the man who has been caring for our yards for decades. And he came, after his real job working on a ranch, to help us deal with the aftermath of the storm.
I started using M about 20 years ago when I very sick and couldn’t care for my yard — or my house for that matter. His sister, who was helping me from time to time with house things I couldn’t manage, said he could help with the outside. And he mowed the lawn and raked the leaves and helped me turn the dirt for my tiny garden. The neighbors saw the work he did and one by one they too started using him for those things they needed help with. He has, with little direction now for years, anticipated our needs and cared for our yards.
And now, nearly two week later, I am taking time to mourn the loss of the trees in our neighborhood because there has been an epidemic of downed trees. But not just from the unseasonable storm. It seems the new trend is to buy a house — denude the yard of previous living things and start over with your own selection of trees or rocks or cement in place of living things.
I was first aware — about two years ago — when this happened on the corner house a couple blocks away. The trees that had taken so long to take hold and frame the house and muffle the traffic noise from the street, were ALL taken out by new owners. I waited to see what would replace the towering pines. It turned out to be smaller pines in different locations and some giant rocks and some flowering low bushes.
A few weeks ago fencing went up along the main drag in my hood and by the time I got home from work ALL the trees were gone from that yard. Trees that had been there maybe 40 years. A few days later when I drove past — the entire house was gone. Another fatality in the — let’s just buy the house for the lot and scrape it down and create something new there instead — epidemic.
When I moved to this little corner of Park Meadows in the late ’70s we knew little grew well. We were, after all, built on old sand dunes and maybe some mine tailings. We didn’t really know what that meant, completely, but this was the only new construction in town. So we all planted trees and scrub and hoped for the best. We worked hard to care for those trees. They were shade and a marking of the seasons and hope that spoke to a future. Every year I would take the kids’ “back to school” picture, in front of the evergreen tree in the front yard the first owners of the house had planted — it was always just about a head taller than my son. My son stopped growing at 6-foot-2 but the tree is now over 30 feet tall. The maple that lost a limb last week also came with the house. Ditto the cottonwood (the other one of the pair died 20 years ago). My kids gave me a flowering crabapple one year for Mother’s Day and it survived in the back corner even though it is hard to get water there. The yard has never had a sprinkling system — except me.
There is now another flowering crabapple in the front and pair of apple trees (non producing) in the back and more aspens that restart themselves with little sucker saplings when an older tree is ready to die. I know my neighborhood by the trees and how they change with the seasons.
Somewhere back in the ’90s my neighbor down the road who lived in (at least in those days) a giant log home, decided he wanted his flat lot to be shaded by trees, so he planted dozens. Mostly pines and spruce and then rows of flowering crabapples along the fence line. His last name was Badami and we teased him for years about planting the Badami National Forest on his acre of land. The senior Badami passed on but at the holidays, those trees are lit up by his grandson. The trees are still providing joy to strangers and neighbors alike.
When I pulled in the driveway last night I should have been happy — it was apparent M had been by with his crew and every leaf that had fallen in the past few weeks had been removed and bagged. But instead I was sad. I wanted the leaves on the lawn longer. I wanted their colors and crunch and temporary carpet. I want fall to be fall.
Seasons change — all in the same week sometimes — in Park City — this weekend promises to return to warm and bright. And I have always loved living in a place where you experience those changes dramatically. But sometimes I want there to be days and weeks where life can be counted on to be predictable and reassuring. I am hoping it might start again this Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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I must admit that, although I have felt much love wherever I hung my hat during this life, I never felt more at home in a new cultural environment than on my first trip down that coastline.