Our Crabapple TreeMay 4, 2015 at 10:15 am | Posted in Amazon Rainf, Amazon Rainforest | 2 Comments
Tags: Hahn Pham SJ
Well, a couple of weeks ago it was my birthday. Sixty-eight years old. A little hard to take in.
When I was a teen-ager, what I loved best about my birthday was that the crabapple in the backyard came into blossom then. We had moved to the house with the crabapple tree the summer before I started high school For twelve years previously we had lived in a much smaller stucco post-war “twin” house several miles south of the Philadelphia city line. Four of us–my parents, my grandmother (“Dommie”) and I–shared three tiny bedrooms and one bathroom. Then, when I was seven, my brother was born and he and I shared the smallest of the three rooms until seven years later we moved a few miles south to a four bedroom house, with an extra half bathroom. But what I loved best was the crabapple tree in the backyard, and how it invariably burst into pink blossoms by the time of my birthday on April 18.
After thirty years or so in that house, long after my grandmother had died and my brother Joseph and I were out in the wide, wide world, my parents sold the house and moved to a retirement community a few miles southwest, in Media. The couple who bought the house seemed nice enough, with two little boys. When I was doing my Ph.D. at Temple in the 1990s, I used to drive by the house, on Crum Lynne Rd., on my way to visit my parents (and soon, just my mother) out at Riddle Village.
That was how I discovered that the nice young couple had cut down the crabapple tree and the rose garden next to the house. They had cemented the two areas and put in an above the ground swimming pool and a basketball court. I almost cried..
I do not think of those people with hostility. I’m sure they considered it a good thing to enable their kids to get some exercise, become athletes, whatever. I do think of them as symbols of what human beings–especially human beings with some money to invest–are doing to the crabapple trees, and the Amazon rainforest, the wetlands, and on and on. With the best will in the world, we are destroying not only our own lungs but also the lungs of the planet.
There’s a happy ending to this story, though, or at least a hopeful one. When I was a seminary professor at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley from 1999 to 2009, I worked with a lot of wonderful students. One of them was a Jesuit seminarian, now Father Hanh Pham, SJ. Hanh made some insightful contributions to my Religion and American Film class. He was also a terrific photographer.
At one point there was an exhibit of Hahn’s photos at JSTB (The Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, now at Santa Clara University). There I found a wonderful photograph of some crabapple buds. The buds were surrounded by snow, so it wasn’t my birthday yet. But they were beautiful nonetheless. A framed copy of the photograph hangs in our apartment, so I see it quite often. And if am not too much of a Luddite,I have shared a copy of that photo with you next to this blog post, courtesy of Father Hanh who’s now in campus ministry out at Regis University in Denver. In looking at it, please hope with me that human beings like that young couple down near Philly, and like us, will see the error of our ways and begin planting crabapple trees instead of cutting them down.