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  • Port Town
  • Port Town


  • October 7, 2020



    We loved that 40-foot-high pine tree that shaded our patio all morning long, that provided a home to humming birds and sparrows, a high perch for crows and ravens to survey their domain, and a place for bugs and small critters that were a source of food for those birds. The tree grew in our neighbor’s yard, but we considered ourselves stakeholders in its presence.

    We would gather beneath its sheltering boughs for morning coffee and conversation, our dog Henry would curl up on his outside bed and snooze, as we plotted new adventures, traded the latest neighborhood gossip, and poured more coffee.

    But now our tree is gone, taking with it its welcome shade, the trill of the birds, and the majestic boughs that swung back and forth in the breeze above our heads. Our patio suddenly seems naked, exposed to the harsh and blinding rays of the morning sun.

    The removal of the tree was sudden with little time to say good-bye. Our neighbors showed up at the door to announce the tree was coming down that day.

    We had to leave that morning to meet our nieces and nephew for ice cream in Huntington Beach, and by the time we returned not only was the tree gone, but the branches that hung over our patio had been allowed to fall into our flower bed, crushing the plants below, including a Birthday rose – one of two that were a gift from Henry and me to my wife.

    The workmen, who were still busy digging out roots, did not speak English, and we don’t beat up on employees, when the person we need to be yelling at is their boss.


    The removal of the tree left us both sad and disappointed, but that’s how it is when an old friend departs. You tend to forget all the bad things that went along with the good.

    The deep shade of the tree made it difficult to grow our own flowers and plants, and the labyrinth of giant roots that supported the tree was slowly destroying the fence separating our backyard from the neighbors and undermining the foundation of our home. And some point in the future, those roots would also damage the plumbing that provides our water and destroy the underground system that drains away our waste – amenities that people nowadays take for granted.

    There also was the daily onslaught of dead pine needles that showered down in our yard, pine needles that had to be swept off our patio daily, pine needles that lodged in the nooks and crannies of everything, spiny debris that fell across young flowers struggling to break through to the light, pine needles that defied attempts to rake them up without damaging all that grew beneath them.

    And when the wind blew hard and strong as it often does in the pass between Mount San Gorgonio and Mount Jacinto, the boughs of the pine would whip back and forth, sending a shower of needles to cover our backyard with a thick prickly carpet of green and brown. If the tree were to snap, as a number have in the pass area, an obvious target would be not only our backyard but our home as well.

    Still, an old friend is gone, and a new day begun.

    After the tree came down we went to Lowes to buy a backyard umbrella, $150 plus with a concrete stand to anchor it to the ground. A poor substitute for the cooling boughs of the old pine and the constant twitter and trills from its inhabitants, but sufficient to provide a modicum of shade.

    We are still digging pine needles out of the cracks and crannies of the backyard, but there is no daily onslaught of their spiny fallout.

    Life goes on.

    Not for the big tree, but hopefully the avian and insect creatures that called the tree home, will find new places to inhabit – hopefully in our yard.

    Carmela, Henry, and I are still here, Carmela and I still drinking coffee in the morning and arguing about life, politics, and our next big adventure, while Henry snoozes on his bed.

    George Lee Cunningham

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