Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Bare trees

It’s starting to look like the live oaks in my area are dying. I’m no arborist, and I haven’t been able to nail down whether these trees typically turn yellow or brown in the fall, but that’s what they’re starting to do and it has me anxious. In our neighborhood and on a number of local hikes, we’re seeing hundreds of these old soldiers apparently struggling. We won’t know till next spring whether this is normal or a catastrophic loss.

This is what I get for not paying attention to my surroundings before.

Or it could be that I’m searching for metaphors that might help explain the tenor of these times. Even if the trees survive, they’re in deep distress. We all suffering through droughts of more than one variety. We have the climatic drought that’s reaching historically critical levels. We had a ten-day heat wave with temperatures around 110 each day, even higher in places like Death Valley.

But we’re also in a moral and ethical drought, a drought that expresses itself in acts like Ron DeSantis flying fifty immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard for nothing more than political giggles. We have MAGA people issuing death threats to school board members over books they don’t like and to Boston Children’s Hospital for performing gender reassignment surgeries on minors (which isn’t true but was disseminated by right-wing media). We have a Trump-appointed judge acting like a Trump consigliere in her orders concerning the classified material he stole from the White House. We have people hating on each other like there’s no tomorrow, and perhaps there isn’t. A tomorrow. Because Vladimir Putin is backed into a corner and has a major nuclear plant in his crosshairs.

So the death of thousands of California oaks seems like a natural reflection of life on earth right now, when you think about it. The air is fouled. Disease is spreading like conspiracy theories.

I hope I’m wrong about the trees. I hope they do this every year but I’ve been too focused on my own trivial life to notice. But I do know that the Mosquito Fire, which I wrote about recently, is now approaching eighty thousand acres and is heading straight for those ancient Sequoias I told you about, and it’s taking out thousands and thousands of living trees as it marches like an army to the east. If it’s not one thing it’s another. We live in a time when metaphors for what’s happening are way too plentiful. A pandemic. An insurrection. Floods. Hurricanes. Fires.

It’s hard to remember a time when these things weren’t loaded with so much additional meaning.


Photo by Sabin Zablau on Unsplash.


9 comments on “Bare trees

  1. kingmidget
    September 21, 2022

    I’ve started to notice something similar on my bike rides along the American River Bike Trail. A lot of trees that look they aren’t going to make it to next Spring.

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 21, 2022

      Yeah, I think I would have noticed it on this scale in years past. Something looks different. Between the drought and that last heat wave, it might be curtains for a lot of trees. 😭

  2. Audrey Driscoll
    September 21, 2022

    Trees drop leaves prematurely in response to drought. They may not be dying–yet. Prolonged or frequent droughts will eventually kill them, though.

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 21, 2022

      Reassurance from an expert! Thanks, Audrey! God knows we’re in the midst of a prolonged drought situation here. If this rainy season doesn’t deliver, it looks bad for these guys.

      • Audrey Driscoll
        September 21, 2022

        That could be. I think a big tree can withstand a couple of really dry years, but eventually it declines. Drought-stressed oaks are noted for suddenly dropping large limbs, so watch out!
        We haven’t had any rain here on southern Vancouver Island since early July, and none is expected in the next couple of weeks.

  3. Marie A Bailey
    September 21, 2022

    I am so hoping Audrey is right and the trees will eventually be okay. Then again, the way our climate and politics are going, maybe not 😦

  4. Pingback: Stormy weather | WHAT THE HELL

  5. pinklightsabre
    September 24, 2022

    The air is fouled. That word foul has me thinking Macbeth type language, Birnam Wood, etc. sigh. Don’t know what to say. Hope the Sequioas are spared, will say that.

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 24, 2022

      Yeah, Birnam Wood is burnin’.

      I’m definitely rooting for those Sequoias. They’re a little over 2 miles from the eastern edge of the fire now, but the firefighters have done a lot of protective prep around them. Six noble trees that have survived everything thrown at them for 2000 years.

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This entry was posted on September 21, 2022 by in Et alia, politics and tagged , , , , .
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