The Tree Tragedy

I can’t speak for my wife, but to me a pair of benefits marshaled my interest in choosing our current apartment: The front windows and what I call the “squirrel tree” majestically before them—as expected, providing plentiful wildlife entertainment for our cats Cali and Neko to watch; for the humans, too. Yesterday, the management company overseeing the property snuffed out magic, and life.

Time is immeasurable this year, thanks to triple-P: pandemic, politics, and protests (e.g., SARS-CoV-2, severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2, also known as COVID-19; Election 2020; and racial riots). As such, I don’t recall how long ago the building manager spoke to me about the tree—two or more months, seems like). He said that the perennial would likely be dramatically trimmed back; being top heavy, the branches pulled the trunk into brickwork before it (see first photo). Some discussion drifted to removal, which I opposed, promising in threatening tone: “The day they cut down that tree is the day I give notice”.

I explained to him the bird and squirrel value to the Wilcoxes, including our felines; how the tree provided shade and privacy that would be cruel to take away with ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns and possibility of riots following the election. Foolish me for thinking that discussion settled anything, while passing of time eased any concerns that the management company would bring in the chainsaws.

Yesterday morning, building residents received emails and texts asking that they clear the complex parking lot for tree-trimming. The manager came by to apologize for the short notice, and I asked what would be cut. He assured me that the palms would be topped off. I drove off to my daughter’s apartment, reassured. Falsely and foolishly. Hours later, I returned to find the tree gone.

The 9:30 a.m. PST email sent by the property management man, Bob, seemed so innocuous: “Sorry for the short notice. We are trying to get trees trimmed around the property today. If your car is parked in front could you please move it until the tree trimming is completed in the next couple of hours”. I responded at 2:36 p.m.: “Robert, tree trimming is not the same as tree cutting, and without warning. Anne and I would have opposed the destruction of the beautiful tree before our front windows, which was beloved. The tree attracted birds and squirrels, which we (and also our cats) enjoyed. You can expect our 30-day notice as soon as we find another place to live. And that’s giving you more warning about an impending action than you gave us”.

I would have given notice right then, but our daughter is in the hospital, where she spent 24 hours on a ventilator—and not for COVID-19. Now I am helping to close out the flat she plans to vacate by December 31. Otherwise, the landlord would already have our 30-days. Make no mistake, we’re done here.

I despise liars and gaslighters. “I’m sorry for not giving you notice on something outside your unit”, Robert replied. “The tree was dead, and furthermore the root system was doing damage to the foundation of the property. This is why that decision was made by the tree estimator, who is a certified arborist”. I answered: “The tree most certainly was not dead. As someone from forest-filled Maine, I am a reasonably good judge about whether or not a tree is living. It thrived, as did the squirrels and birds which ate of its fruit. Root system is a separate matter. Obviously the tree is dead now, and our enthusiasm for this apartment died with it”.

Not long after the new year, Anne and I will leave the neighborhood—and more likely Communist California. As such, I will soon end my “Cats of University Heights” series, started in October 2016, when the backlog of beasties is exhausted.

Let’s discuss the photos. I used Leica M (Typ 262) and and Summarit-M 1:2.4/50 lens to capture the Featured Image on April 5, 2018. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/9.5, ISO 200, 1/60 sec, 50mm; 8:57 a.m. PDT. The branches and leaves looked as healthy yesterday morning as they did more than two-and-a-half years ago. The butchers.

In the second shot, the cats frolic before bountiful windows, where the tree can be seen outside behind Neko (the orange cat). Vitals: f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/160 sec, 28mm; 1:21 p.m. PST, Nov. 15, 2017. The third gives great view of the branches, on which there is a squirrel, captured through the glass. Vitals: f/5.6, ISO 125, 1/60 sec, 28mm; 11:14 a.m. PST, Oct. 26, 2017. I used Leica Q for both.

Because the cats freaked out from the noise of what Annie thought was Palm trimming, she hung out in the back bedroom with them. Later, shocked to see the devastation, she used iPhone XS to capture photos four and five. You can see from the massive branches, full of green leaves, and color of the stump that the tree was vital and vibrant—not dead as gaslighting Bob claimed. Vitals for the fourth: f/1.8, ISO 25, 1/683 sec, 26mm (film equivalent); 11:32 a.m. PST, Dec. 11, 2020. For the fifth: f/1.8, ISO 25, 1/1748 sec, 26mm (film equivalent); 1:03 p.m.