I see new housing additions being built here and there as I drive around OKC, or am on my way in, driving from the north. The bulldozers come in first and take away all the character of the land, scraping off the topsoil and using it to fill in the low spots. Leaving the red rock on the surface, red shale in which nothing will grow. They put in their pipe, lay out the streets, build look-alike houses and then, at the end, they plant one small tree in the front yard of each house.
I see that and I think, 'could you not have planned around all those magnificent old trees that were already growing there? Could you not have brought in fill dirt from somewhere else and left the good topsoil that had supported native grasses for thousands and thousands of years? It is all about the money, of course. I know that. It costs money to pay people to haul in dirt…and time….and time is money to construction companies. Money, once again, taking precedence over creation.
I look around the farm here, in this space alive with an abundance of growing, singing, creeping, climbing things, and see huge trees all around, trees that we planted after we were married. Yes, there were a few here: the three big Cedars, the Cottonwood out front which was planted before Statehood, a scrawny Tree of Heaven, and the big Elm that shaded the back door of the house. Everything else we planted and nurtured and trimmed and fertilized and prayed over, making our own shade and filling the air with the green music of leaves in the prairie wind.
We had a dream, Danny and I, of creating a long, arching tunnel down the length of our driveway that would be shade to walk through in the heat of summer, a place where our grandchildren could ride their bikes or take wagon rides without getting a sunburn or heat stroke. We planted a three layer tree row so they would have a shady place in which to play and explore, and also to stop the roar and heat of the searing harvest wind.
Here it is, thirty some years later, a beautiful tunnel dappling the ground with light and shadow. It takes a lifetime to grow a big tree. I do wish people would let them stand; I wish they could slow down and hear the history singing through their strong, reaching branches; recognize the work they have done for the planet and all the smaller creatures of the earth during their long lives. It is no small thing.
I hope, when I too am gone, that no one comes with a bulldozer and pushes all this life, this beauty, into a mangled heap and strikes a match.