Pulled out of a deep sleep, I became conscious of what seemed to be the whine of a thousand-pound mosquito. No, I realized someone was sawing a tree. The thud when the tree fell vibrated in my chest. It invaded my peaceful quiet. The annoying whine buzzed on and on.

Later that day, I drove to the post office. Just a block away from home, I slowed the car as I approached the stop light on the corner and saw the clutter of downed trees and heavy equipment parked on both sides of the street. So that was where all this noise was coming from. The traffic light turned green and I went on my way.

The month before we had noticed a new sign at this corner announcing, “Luxury Home for Sale.” We laughed. Before then, at the end of the unpaved driveway there had been a metal gate with a sign reading “KEEP OUT.” We thought there was a house somewhere behind all that bramble. We pictured a recluse living in a run down house, perhaps with a loaded rifle standing his ground.

Yet the next time I set out on an errand in that direction, I was startled to see the lot completely cleared and the ground flat. There was no house, apparently there never was one. I now had a clear view of our next door neighbor’s back yard and house.

As I waited for the light to change, I caught a glimpse of motion in my peripheral vision. Above my car a Red Tailed Hawk gently descended heading to where only a day or two before there had been trees. It crossed over my windshield gliding, wings spread wide. The outstretched feathers displayed an intricate pattern in staggered checks of tan and brown. Then seeing no trees to land upon, it tilted slightly gave its powerful wings a flap, and lifted skyward. I gasped at its beauty.

I wondered if the hawk was as startled as I to see the empty space. I imagined bird and squirrel nests crashing to the ground when the trees were felled. I imagined the Live Oak, Pine, Arrow Wood, Magnolia and dozens of other trees in our property sensing some biochemical impact when their companions were killed.

Day by day the changes are so gradual we don’t notice, but they are there. Clear cutting land to build a house seems so harmless. But we know that trees change our water table and our air quality. Wangari Maathai was awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her work planting trees. It wasn’t just my peaceful sleep that was disturbed by the removal of those trees.

“Recognizing that sustainable development, democracy and peace are indivisible is an idea whose time has come… Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own – indeed, to embrace the whole of creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder.”
Wangari Maathai