Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Trees give peace to the souls of men. Nora Waln

What do we owe our neighbors? This is a question I have wondered as I’ve looked at semi-detached houses where the neighbors were not in sync with their color choices of garage doors, roofs, etc.

On our neighbor’s and our front yards, we had twin pink crabapple trees that stood side by side until she cut hers down earlier this spring. They stood together for 28 years. I started getting used to the bare spot and wondered what she had planned that was better than a big beautiful pink crabapple tree in full bloom.

Last night coming back from my walk with Lulu listening to the audiobook The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday I noticed her grand plan and it stopped me in my tracks. She planted a blue spruce where a magnificent pink crabapple once stood.

I stormed into the kitchen where my son and his fiancĂ© were eating dinner. “Have you seen what she’s done?” I sputtered.

“You should have talked to her about her plans,” my son calmly said.

When should I have talked to her about it? When I came home from a walk and half the branches had been sawed off and were lying on the ground? She never talked to me about cutting down the tree and still hasn’t. Why would I ask about a tree that has been standing for 28 years? I expected to see it keep standing until the branches were lying on the ground. The only tree she has kept standing is a maple tree that is too close to the house.

I am not like the farmer who said once his barn was gone, “Now I can see the moon.”

Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky. Kahlil Gibran

I’ve never had a problem with neighbors but maybe it’s because my son tells me I am passive-aggressive, complaining about them behind their back instead of talking to them directly. I did talk to my neighbor’s son one day who had their dog peeing on our lawn. I think I was even effective. I haven’t seen her peeing there since. Why would I have to ask someone to not have their dog pee on my lawn? That should be self-evident, shouldn’t it?

When we live in a city we have to hope our neighbors like trees and will plant some for everyone’s enjoyment. I’ve been lucky we have a tree-lined street because the builder planted a tree on each lot and the city planted boulevard trees. Most homeowners value their trees as they add value to the property and living on a tree-lined street is a prettier street. In the backyards, we as well as neighbors have planted trees that give us all some privacy and a place for the birds, squirrels, and rabbits to live.

Neighbors, friends, and family don’t all see things the same way. We are individuals with our own values, judgments, and choices. I’m sure I make choices others don’t agree with and they make choices I don’t agree with. As my parents used to say, “It takes everyone to make a world.” We have our little piece to look after and everyone else has to look after theirs.

There is no point in getting upset about the beautiful crabapple tree that has been removed. A magnificent blue spruce will grow in its stead. It’s going to take a while as it’s only 18 inches tall.

Is there a lesson here for me? Is it ironic that I was listening to The Obstacle is the Way? We have our little yard to beautify and I have to leave everyone else’s yard up to them. We can only make things happen in our own circle of influence but it is so much easier to look at what others are doing instead of tending to our own business. Am I looking after my own business well enough? If I am, I wouldn’t have time to mind anyone else’s?

Be like a tree. The tree gives shade even to him who cuts off its boughs. Sri Chaitanya

A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit. Elton Trueblood

Allow nature’s peace to flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. John Muir

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