On New Year’s Eve a team came to cut down our big Dawk Khae Tree. I didn’t agree to this lightly. This tree in particular had become meaningful to me.
Pramote and I acquired this land in 2006 and we had it filled in, in order to build our house higher than the level of surrounding rice fields. The dirt came from away from here. After we built a house on the back corner of this elevated area a tree sprouted next to the house. In about 5 years the tree began to produce flowers of a sort, rather rare for here, that have market value as a component in a bitter curry. Pramote’s sister gathered these flowers from the ground each morning for sale. She sometimes cooked them. (I wrote about this in a blog: www.kendobson.asia/blog/dawk-khae ).
The tree grew fast and had to be trimmed every two or three years. It endured pruning without noticeable protest and then grew even more robust. I noticed this. Since the tree was right outside my window I watched wildlife come and go. Bees and wasps loved the flowers. A florescent lizard frequented the tree and so did little squirrels and a chipmunk. Birds rested and nested there. I have seen a couple of snakes in it hunting for field mice or baby birds.
As the tree grew bigger, however, its roots began to push up under the house. The sidewalk cracked and the foundation was threatened. Left alone the tree would win in a contest between itself and the house. So at the end of this flowering season the tree was cut down. It will try to sprout again, as trees do here, but this will be prevented. Unlike a fruit tree that fell over 10 years ago in our back orchard and has now sprouted 6 new trees, the dawk khae tree is effectively deceased.
In a way, this wasn’t just another of our 200 trees. It was one I noticed that provided shade, fascination, and income. That is, it made these things available to us as we took advantage of them. The choice was ours. The tree was passive. To our co-inhabitants on this plot of earth (reptiles and rodents, birds and bees) the tree provided other things.
Contemplating the tree has been worthwhile.
It sprouted voluntarily. It came into existence without consent, as we all do. We happen. Then we develop as is our nature, according to our circumstances. If we have space and sustenance, we flourish. If competition or disease befall us, our development might be extenuated.
Meanwhile, between the beginning and the end, we and the tree go on providing OPPORTUNITIES. Humans tend to believe in INTENTIONS. We think what is important about our contribution to the world is what we meant to do. Those are the meritorious things. That is how we calculate our value, by our fulfilled plans. But this is pretty limited, come to think about it. Virtually everything that is valuable to others about the tree is the opportunities the tree affords. The tree “intends” none of it, not the nesting places, the nutrition of its fallen flowers, nor the aesthetic and philosophical benefits such as I have derived.
It comes as something of a blow to my ego to realize that I am probably more like the tree in this regard than I might wish to be. A great many of my grand plans have attracted no attention nor have they provided benefit equal to their cost and effort. But I have been told on a few occasions that I have changed the courses and outcomes of some people’s lives by simply being somewhere, expressing something, or offering a place for someone to rest and recover. This pushes me to re-evaluate my time and resource-consuming intentions, because they could be defeating much value that I might be providing.
What if we were to orient our living to be more like the tree? As we grow, flower, and express our innate potential, would we not thereby also be of more use in the divine and natural scheme of things? That is how the tree does it.
Of course, I am not a tree. I have mobility, consciousness, and an opposing thumb. I have a brain and soul. Our human race has technology, by which we measure our superiority over other species. It is debatable that the tree has any of these. But it is also debatable that these capabilities make us superior to trees or give us independence. Still they are endowments that could be used to maximize our responses. We need not be entirely passive in our recognition of opportunities we could provide.
I suppose I am merely trying to ruminate on the significance of our tree before it fades from memory. I am also a little sad that the tree had to go. Now that 2022 has begun and the tree has gone, I miss them both. Some things go because it is their time, or because they wear out. The tree is gone because it had a lower priority to us than the house. There are valid measurements of such things as this.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.