Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Shedding maple syrup tears

Commentary by Jim Banholzer


Jim Banholzer

What in the world has become of the sugar maple down by the Trail Creek riparian area behind the old Ski View Lodge? The builders said they would try to save it—let it remain standing broad and free—but now it's gone. Did a backhoe driver make an honest mistake in the mud? But, then did he laugh because he could? The wisdom tree full of unassuming beauty added an earthly atmosphere to conversations held in lemonade chairs underneath a colorfully cool dome of leaves.

A Wagon Days pioneer seeded this maple to bud outside his shack window. It impressed visitors with a PowerPoint presentation of nature. Its show was augmented by a waterfall, which purified our dreams every night. Sometimes a homeless person (also removed) would softly mouth-harp cool songs from rail-tied steps on the other side of the stream, in harmony with the tambourine percussion of leaves rustling from the tree. Just up the creek from a secret footbridge -- now too gone. Which school kids used to dash over on winter morns, with a rucksack full of Robert Frost crossing the snowy fields. Right where I laughed at Laura as she tried to save minnows one dry summer, frantically dipping a colander to transfer them into larger puddles as Trail Creek almost drained. Only realizing later that we'd be less polluted if more people cared about the environment as she did. This led me to suggest running a hose from the shack into Trail Creek.

The quaking tree behind which Maddie once chased a spring bear from off our deck. An event for which she received a tiny Ursa Major medallion forged by a silversmith in old Ketchum. That which she proudly displayed from her collar on special occasions.

The maple had tiny flowers blooming atop its crown in the springs. Not many make it here in this clime. The ones that do help visitors from Vermont feel more at home. Do they think less of us Idahoans now for allowing such a precious gem to be gone? No call came out over the scanner about jeweled butterflies chaining themselves to this tree, requiring security officers to go out with a net in Ketchum. Rather, in a minute of non-harmonic convergence, unthinking operators of intimidating engine power unceremoniously ripped out its heartwood with thrasher blades.

Magnificent magpies used to stage themselves strategically in the maple for table scraps from our cookouts. I, too, would stage blankets around its base, readying for late night shows from summer skies. Around its absorbing roots were planted heart- and Idaho-shaped rocks found over the ages -- these too now wiped for a clean slate.

The sweet sugar maple behind Ski View Lodge -- under which a full language developed between our dog and I. That which I would babble out next to the brook evenings, coming up with new nicknames for "Mooka-Palooka" every night. The language now deader than doornails sealing out highly defined streamed sounds from vacuous second homes.

Whose doormats will lie over the hallowed ground of our buried pets?

Was a frame carved from the Maplewood to hold up somebody's contract—sailing over a fractured renter's ship—on the wall behind a solid oak desk? Did somebody at least get to enjoy its luxuriant colors sparkling from a final fireplace? Or was I standing in the way of progress when a monster rig full of its captured pieces waited for me to limp displaced across the bridge to a new era? On its march to be tossed unseen into a remote incinerator—alongside rosebuds and vanities? Red-blooded leaves plucked fresh from the stream bank and branches stuffed into hoppers of untouchable money banks.

Will there be a historical plaque for the maple notched from its intelligent design? Or a few photos in faded albums around town? Maybe just an empty note for this weary hobo to sing, spiraling down memory lane, a tinhorn piping past the vortex nigh' the hollow stream?

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