When I went out the neighbors had collected weeds and grass in the small pocket of forest next door. A pile of wood was burning. They were transforming the land surrounding the monkey tree into a flower and vegetable garden apparently. When the fire had died down and everyone left, I walked the stretch of earth where over a dozen native trees rested – a pet project Lia and I endeavored on for weeks.
Our bitaog, toog, white lauan, and salimbobog trees ,one each, were uprooted and transplanted elsewhere, the leaves wilting due to stress. My heart sank seeing the kalantas tree in the wreckage, chopped and reduced to trunk and shrunken leaves. The three-foot tall malabulak and another white lauan were nowhere to be found. The soil where they stood was raked and dug up. Kalantas is a threatened species. The white lauan is critically endangered. My eyes weren’t able to help themselves. The pain and sadness are unbearable.
I remember Lia and I soaking wet, sowing the young seedlings last year under the rain. Sometimes we’d end up planting until night time, with only a phone’s flashlight guiding our soiled hands. Sometimes I would take a day’s leave from work and spend hot noons plucking out rows of grass, weed, and monkey tree seedlings, so these native babies would thrive. And thrive they did – foot upon foot, leaf upon healthy leaf. Caterpillars, strange bugs, and snails loved them.
On mornings I’d take my pail, pour some water onto the soil, and whisper gratitude. I’d close my eyes, surrounded by these growing trees, breathing in their exhale. I listened to bird songs and imagined them growing to mammoth size, their trunks sheltering prey and predator. It was a beautiful dream. To see that dream disintegrate to cut trunks and burning wood is grisly and fucking devastating. I have no other words for it.
I have mad respect for trees. They are one of this world’s oft-unnoticed magic weavers. There is no comparable creation or man-made contraption that affords us the luxury of breathing without any price in return, except a little TLC. We need to remember this more often. We must let it seep into every membrane, every layer of consciousness. Our lives depend on it.