Friday, May 10, 2013

Patrick Cottonwood: After

The pre-dredging tree surgeons had their way with Patrick Cottonwood today, and somehow the universe and intuition conspired to have me arrive with my camera right when they were calling it a day and hauling away pieces of Patrick via barge to an interim location, en route to a landfill in Washington County. Although there was sadness in my heart, I didn't feel anger toward the workers, who were just doing what they need to do to keep a roof over their heads. If they didn't agree to do it, others would. And I'd like to believe that people involved in this project feel they are working for the greater good and in the long run are doing less harm than good.


Here is Patrick's new look:


From the roadside, it appears that two major branches were removed, including (of course) the low-hanging branches I used to love to photograph and float under. The branches that emitted discernable energy and felt somehow protective. The branches that seemed to be reaching down to touch the river. I will truly miss them and couldn't bear to paddle to Patrick this evening to see the changes up close on the river. Perhaps when I feel more rested.

Before (left) and after (right)
Looking up (from slightly different angles):


From the side (I labeled Patrick at the same place in both photos for easier comparison):


I'm glad to have been there at just the right time to capture this image as the tree trimming barge departed at the end of the day:


Before going home, I touched Patrick's bark and patted his trunk. If trees have consciousness, I believe Patrick is somehow aware that he is noticed and loved by at least two human beings. At a retreat last year, Eckhart Tolle explained:
"When you contemplate a tree or a flower, you reflect back to the tree its own beauty, sacredness, and aliveness. So the tree, through you, becomes conscious of itself."

I love this idea. It rings true for me. And I believe that both the human and the tree are blessed by the connection fostered by the gift of presence; it is reciprocal. I feel grateful that, although Patrick lost some limbs, he is still alive and rooted on the riverside. His altered shape is a monument to human ignorance - the ignorance that polluted this historic river with 1.3 million pounds of toxic waste in the first place.

Patrick stood tall overlooking the river before PCBs were dumped into the river. And perhaps he will still be there long after the dredging project is completed, when the river has hopefully restored itself to good health and the fish are no longer contaminated with poison. Perhaps, if this good fortune comes to pass, Patrick will somehow know that his involuntary sacrifice was for the greater good.

May it be so.

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