The lot next door to my home has been wooded for as long as I have lived in this house, going on 16 years now. In all of those years I have photographed the birds in its trees, met bobcats from afar, and watched squirrels come scurrying into my yard from their homes every morning. It brought me a lot of joy to listen to the sounds of nature right outside my home, considering just a few blocks away is the loud city.
If you’ve been following my blog and reading my posts, you know that because of my health I am more often than not stuck at home and am often limited to my back yard as a place to take pictures and test out my cameras. You may also know if you are following my instagram, that most of the pictures I take are of the birds and trees right from my yard.
Since America is in the middle of another real estate boom, there has been land being cleared, homes and buildings going up everywhere. It is all very reminiscent of the time right before the recession in 2008. We had the same kind of boom in construction that ended with piles of wood being abandoned and lots left empty along with many construction workers being out of a job. Hopefully this boom won’t end with the same outcome, but I also hope we don’t end up losing too much wildlife as a result.
The peace and quiet I have enjoyed for so long all came to an end a few weeks ago when I saw the SOLD sign outside the lot next door. My stomach sank. I had only hoped they would take a long time before they started building, but they didn’t. One morning I went outside for a walk to find this giant log hauler parked in front of the lot. Later cops showed up I think because it was parked near a curve in the road, and much later it was moved.
The next day this tractor appeared in its place. Then I knew it was only a matter of time, and I had to start taking my last photographs while I still could.
It all happened very quickly. Very early one morning I was woken up by the loud sounds of the tractor crunching over the smaller palms and bushes. I wanted to capture every branch, and every tree before they were carried off. Luckily, I had a few different cameras already loaded. I always have several different cameras with different focal lengths loaded at one time.
I ran outside and started shooting as much as I could before the tractor tore them down. It was a very dramatic experience to witness. These once very large, old trees were now being pushed over, shook, and crushed with sounds of cracking that sounded like bones breaking. Trees that once grew together for decades would now die together within hours.
As you can imagine I had an emotional attachment to these trees. The experience was very dramatic for me, so you will have to bear with my dramatic descriptions. I couldn’t help feeling this way as I watched it happening in front of me.
The egrets came with the tractor as if it was their everyday job too. They were brave, flying in next to the scoop and standing inches from the tires before it rolled on. They reminded me of the birds that sit on the backs of gators or rhinos hoping to catch fish while symbiotically living on another living animal.
They would run up to the claw and grab snakes and lizards impaled on the teeth. They ate well that day.
At first I figured the guy was just going to clean up the bushes and weeds around the tall trees and then a larger tractor would come later to maybe saw down the gigantic trees. I had no idea how they were going to manage such tall trees in between two houses without them falling on us.
I gasped when he started to nudge the giants with his tractor until they fell over with a ground shaking crash.
Trees often represent life, and stability. It was both awe inspiring and gut wrenching to see them being torn down by this metal man made machine, and tossed around like sticks.
By the late afternoon I was still in shock that this small tractor had managed to clear the entire lot of giant trees all by itself in one day. After the guy left I went around to get some shots of the lot from the front.
The only thing remaining on the lot was the giant carcasses of the once tall trees and a pile of crushed palms.
The guy left one tree that thankfully is on the part of the land that belongs to the city. I am so grateful for that because I often photograph this tree because it is where the hawks perch. They flew in to see what happened to their home.
Later that night I looked at the trees lying there in the dark lot next door. It was very eerie. They reminded me of sleeping giants, and that is what I called them after that.
The next day someone else came back with his very young son and some workers to break up the tall trees into pieces. I decided to use my Canon TX which was loaded with some Lomography Lady Grey I was trying out for the first time. It ended up fitting the subject perfectly to look like an old, 1940’s monster movie.
I watched in horror as he picked up the carcass of each tree, raised it high in the air, and then dropped them to the ground to help crack them in half.
Then he would lift them back up slightly and hold it about 2 feet in the air while his young son came over with a chainsaw and sawed off the bottom half where the roots once fed life into the tree.
Next he violently shook the roots free of any dirt before tossing it into a pile. The sawed off log then was carried over to a separate pile awaiting the log hauler to come take them away the next day.
This guy was pretty nasty. I could hear him screaming at his workers, and at one point he stopped the tractor and screamed at me in my yard, “What you takin’ my picture for!!” I yelled back that I wasn’t taking his picture, I was photographing the trees, but he ignored me. I felt pretty bad being scolded, and went inside. I guess I shouldn’t have let him get to me, but I wasn’t expecting that. I just really hate the way people seem to be particularly nasty these days.
The Bright Side
At the end of the day, there is nothing I can do about any of this. I couldn’t stop them from taking down those trees. I can’t stop them from building this house. Change is the only thing you can bet on in life, and there is nothing I can do about all of these changes that are taking place. I can however, control how I react to these changes. What I can do is see the bright side.
The literal bright side after all of this is the beautiful new view that has been revealed to me.
When the lot next door was covered in those beautiful trees, it was also blocking my view to the sunset.
I now have this beautiful view to enjoy and photograph as well as the one tree they left behind that the hawks perch on especially for me to take their picture. Although I do know this too will be temporary because once the house is built I probably will lose that view too, it is these small blessings that keeps life going. These small happinesses are what we should all grasp hold of and never take for granted because in the blink of an eye it will all change.