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Tree guys are everywhere doing the oaks. Makes me think back to living in Wilmette and having our oaks trimmed. The tree guys at our house, trimming the November oaks. Climbing ladders which rested casually against the thick sturdy fifty year old oak trunks. The angry roar of a saw, then branches dropping willy nilly on cowering burning bushes that had lost their fire. The guys climbed ladders like divers to the high dive. Steady. They hung and turned to cut like male gymnasts. All muscles. Confidence. Another day, another fifty feet in the air.

The tree guys angled their way through the trees that separated us from Mr. Calantary’s yard and his ever present cigar. Cigar smoke snaked through the buckthorn and oaks between our houses and let us know when Mr. Calantary was sitting on his blue Adirondack with his cigar in his fingers, bringing it to his lips like a lover.

The trees seemed so strong back then, twenty some years ago. Everything was so grounded.

This year, so many trees gone down. Ash, blue spruce, hemlocks, even some mighty oaks. Tree maladies: blight, fungus, mildew, too much water for the oaks shallow roots, too much drought for the Japanese maple, emerald ash borer, you name it.

We stop at curbs and watch trees go down on the block. Faces long.

“What’s happening to the trees??” Chris asks. We stand silent and stare.

In Wilmette Mr. Calantary came by our side yard, and called to the tree men. He was puffed up like Mark Wahlberg so I cranked the window open to hear what he was saying. I remember his cigar smoke wafting in, and with it I could smell wet earth, wood chips and November leaves.

“What are they doing to the oaks?” Mr. Calantary said. “They’re not cutting them down now are they?!”

“Just a trim, sir!” The young tree man replied. “They are lifting them up!”

The pandemic is more than wearing on us. My friends and I discuss the feeling. We are in the gray. I feel like I have been visiting a country gray and black and white. Maybe one of those chopped up ex USSR countries where spy movies end up and the accent is undeterminable. Mark Wahlberg is the star, and God knows Mark Wahlberg has the best angry face. Which is how we feel now on and off. Angry.

My friend, Lydia and I keep asking each other what day it is. My friend Christine questions whether we can hug now or not. It’s awkward, it’s confusing, we are not grounded anymore. Is it over? Is it surging? Is this friend vaccinated? Is this friend not?

We need an anchor, deep roots like walnut trees.

The Japanese have a word to describe sunlight that comes through trees: komorebi. How lovely is that?!

We need a word to describe: everything is back to normal.

And the knowledge that the light is coming through the trees again.

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