[I took a writing class this summer and have been digging around in some writing I've done in the past. This is a short piece I scribbled out after being laid off from the company I'd been with for over 25 years back in 2001. The author's "name" is all mine, not appended with the surname of anyone else's.]
I went out for a walk this morning to enjoy the clear blue sky and warm sun in the middle of January, threading my way through the neighborhood to return library books and check my post office box. I came upon a large pine tree, squeezed between the sidewalk and a masonry block fence, it's branches towering over my head. There was a large white "X" painted on it and underneath was scrawled the word "remove". Someone had decided that just for growing beyond it's bounds and potentially disrupting the even monotony of the wall, the tree had to go. Perhaps too, there was a danger of it falling over into the street, in the path of some vehicle guided at breakneck speed by its owner who would be too engrossed in a cell phone conversation to avoid the tree as it reached out for the pavement.
I couldn't help but wonder if some force somewhere is painting X's on some of us these days. When you finally seem to finish all the growing prescribed for you, when you've reached your full potential and stand tall for all the world to see, someone comes along and declares you an excess person. Maybe we too have just grown beyond our boundaries and it's time to toss off new seeds in other directions.
I can't imagine that removing the tree will add much to the area. The shade it once provided will be gone and the wall that comes and goes nowhere will be exposed. In all likelihood, few folks will notice the footstool-size stump that eventually gets covered over by decorative desert stone. A new tree might even be planted in the same spot, a good place to add a little cover for the yard behind the wall and breakup the view from the street. So too, will our replacements be hired and set about solving with enthusiasm and excitement the same old problems that we'd figured out years ago.
The tree could end up consumed in hot, angry flames, burning itself to a pile of ashes. Or it could lie forgotten in landfill far from the city and slowly decay, unnoticed. There are other uses for the tree and us. Both may prove beneficial, our remaining assets turned into creative works of art, our contribution lasting years into the future, maybe even someday considered an antique or collectible. Maybe that's the point of branching out, to see just where we might be taken. Maybe the X just marks a crossroads of sorts.