An Hour Is All It Takes by Bernie Jordan
Germination happened in a split second three hundred and fifty-six years, four months and twenty-one days ago. The acorn was buried by a squirrel that died a very long time ago.
Age did not weary this tree; it grew from strength to strength. Each spring more and more leaves unfurled. Twigs turned to branches, zig zagging towards the light. Each summer it fed a multitude of insects. Lovers met within its shade and children played beneath its boughs. Each Autumn it scattered the ground with leaves. The ancestors of the squirrel who buried the acorn found plenty of nuts of their own. Winter brought rest that looked like death. This tree was a harbour for a wealth of life. A jay nested in the shelter of a hollow, ladybirds tucked themselves tight into folds of bark, and slugs eggs lay in clusters close to its roots.
Cotton, coal and clogs came stamping their mark across the land. A town engulfed the woodland, but this oak had its place in the crook of a stream. It withstood the siege like a castle with a moat. Every town must have its park and this tree became for children ‘The Playground Tree.’ But land is scarce on this overcrowded island and there was no real calculation of the value of green space.
When trees die naturally, they decline over decades, feeding others in their wake. For this mighty oak an hour was all it took to die.
The chainsaw team arrive with trailer, truck and chipping machine.
Ropes are rigged, harnesses clipped, and the saw begins to scream.
Smoke and sawdust mingle. Huge branches crash to the ground gouging up turf.
Soon the oak is shorn.
After a thirty second pause to oil the blade, the attack begins again.
A gaping wedge is cut deep into the trunk then the saw is repositioned at the other side.
Tree rings marking each year’s growth are sliced in a split second.
With a groan from deep within its core the tree comes thundering down.
This living being is no more than a heap of timber.
An hour is all it takes. A part of life, gone forever.
The town closed in on the island that was a park. Like the closing of a great green eye an abundance of life shut down. Ladybirds were pulped with the tree and slugs were buried under concrete, only the jay flew free. He took with him an acorn in his beak. He flew above the shops and warehouses, factories and streets. He flew to the hills and rested. Instinct had drawn him to a quiet hillside. He worked a patch of turf with his beak, plucking and flicking the grass to one side. That jay planted the acorn well, now it needs some space and many centuries in which to grow. The oak may yet have a second chance.