Posted at 12:26 PM on May 1, 2009
by Julia Schrenkler
Vandals have felled the iconic "honking tree" just south of Two Harbors in northern Minnesota, upsetting the residents of the small northern Minnesota town accustomed to tooting their horns whenever they went by.
I read this story... and wondered how Two Harbors' folks feel about this. The tree carries a certain significance to residents and travelers alike, but what does a tree mean to a community? Would you mourn the loss of a tree?
What does it mean for the vandals themselves? According to this commentary from Randy Lindemann in Frazee, Minn., those responsible only achieved fame (anonymously) and a painful legacy:
"For the perpetrators it's a hollow achievement at best. What's more, the glory will soon fade and guilt will prevail as they have years to consider their deed and deal with the pangs of conscience."
This is an open discussion, because I'm not sure where it will go - the direction depends on your reactions. I'll hang up and listen.
In 1981, a tornado swept through southwest Minneapolis and took down many trees in the Rose Gardens and Lakewood Cemetary. There was a particulaly wonderful Ginkgo tree in the Rose Gardens that was large and easy to climb and sit in. After that tree fell with that tornado, many people stopped there to mourn the loss of one of their favorite trees. Several new Ginkgo trees have been replanted there, but they don't have the captivating structure of the earlier one.
Shouldn't the loss of a tree, or an animal be acknowledged as a loss, even if it is for utilitarian purposes? The vandalism of this tree highlights a problem of separateness our society as a whole experiences from the rest of the biotic world. Modern humans have often destroyed much for their own self interest and it only now that current societies are realizing how strongly life is interconnected. If we attempt to take much more, the ramifications will come full circle eventually to equilibrate the problem. Unfortunately, our actions affect many other species as well as own. This was a beautiful tree, and it will not just be the residents of Two Harbors that will miss it!
Absolutely, trees are and should be mourned. The elm tree which was beautiful as well as practical (shading my porch) was removed more than 20 years ago, and I still miss it. The straight line winds which swept through Highland some years ago destroyed some houses, which made me feel bad, but took down hundreds of trees, which made me weep. How much worse to know that the destruction of the tree in Two Harbors was caused not by a storm or a beetle but, purposely, by a person.
I sure would and I have.
I visited this huge white pine in the middle of nowhere in Northern Wisconsin as a child. In 2003 it was burned, most believe by vandals. I felt sad that the tree had been around for four-hundred years but my children wouldn't see it.
The loss of this tree refreshes my sorrow for the loss of the entire White Pine forest. And it refreshes my sorrow for the tribes who were sustained by the mature forest for centuries. I am saddened by the vandals who cut down the honking tree as I am by the barons and men who cashed in the timber.
This tree or any tree can be symbol of people's regard for the natural world. Trees are not like people' they must survive where they are. As such they have endured and are symbols of perseverence and hope. The White Pine is an especially powerful symbol for Minnesota as it is our largest and most abused tree. At one time there were millions and now there are few. The idea that people loved that tree was an important statement on how we see our natural world. To mourn that pine is to mourn what was and was so abused. I hope they plant at least three more there to symbolize our own perseverence to help the White Pine flourish again.
"Mourn" is too strong a word. It was only a tree.
For me, having grown up up there, it was one of those universal, unspoken cultural artifacts that was a part of being from there. Everyone -- separately -- kept the ritual alive by giving a toot when they drove by. Driving alone, with kids in the car, perhaps excited about going north to go fishing or camping or skiing or hiking, everyone did it and if felt kind of silly, but a part of something local.
The trolls that cut it down will probably feel some guilt -- they had better. But they won't stop the ritual. Someone will plant a new tree, or designate one of the big pine's little offspring that have sprouted in recent years, or do something with the stump. Next time by, I'm honking regardless of what's there or not there.
Yes, we do mourn the loss of this tree. As the author Gail Straub describes in "The Rhythm of Compassion", we are connected, not seperate, from creation. The act of chopping down a tree for attention describes the dis-connected person(s) soul(s). We who mourn are indeed connected to the rhythm of the natural world.