My days all seem backwards, and this week has felt like it has gone on for a month. This of course has nothing to do with anything, except that I’m really cutting this one very close to the end of the day, and I really don’t like cutting self-imposed deadlines this close. Not that any of this is of any particular relevance, or that I’vesaid that already.
For decades, the elm trees of North America have been fighting a great epidemic, and dying in huge numbers, felled by the mighty fungus of the dreaded Dutch Elm Disease.
The tragedy of dead and dying trees across the American landscape is made more poignant by the fear and hatred created in the elm community over the stigma of a disease which brings more than trunk scars and wilted yellow leaves, it brings shame and discord.
Even before much was known about the disease and its causes, those unfortunate enough to contract the disease where shunned by the other elms. Ostracized and ridiculed for their increasingly repugnant appearance, the blight became labeled a social disease, and amongst conservative elms, the message of the moment was that the disease was a punishment from God, to strike down unfaithful and promiscuous trees, those elms whose behaviors differed from the orthodoxy. The intolerant decried the diseased as deviants; wholly indiscriminate about spreading their seeds, and fostering hundreds of sucker plants.
Most of the sick, impuissant, suffering from starvation, and attacks from all sides, have attempted to defend their good names, saying that they cannot be blamed for their sickness, they are the victims, they did nothing to deserve the sickness, only to be ignored.
One of the strongest advocates for the sick and dying elms was elder-statestree, known as Garden Park Elm. the grand tree, which has stood in the center of the park for more than two centuries, contracted the illness from tainted pruning equipment. His character could not disputed, and he fought tirelessly for understanding and compassion for his fellow sufferers, until he too succumbed to the disease.
In his best know public address, Garden Park spoke of the need for elms to get past the hatred, and stand tall against a common foe. “This epidemic was not a punishment from God, it was a disease, pure and simple. We cannot run from it. We are defenseless to escape fate, and must instead pray for intervention, and stop blaming innocent trees, good trees who faced the trials with their leaves held high, and with a noble spirit.”
This story was, in part, inspired by my friend Octoquad. I was mentioning the elms in my neighborhood, which tend to be chief contributors to my annual sewer problems, and he was shocked to hear of mature elms in the country. He lives in Pennsylvania, which saw much damage to its elm populations. I took the elms for granted, and cursed every volunteer I’ve had to remove, and every elms seed that’s coated my lawn.
impuissant / im – PYOO – sant / powerless, weak