Saturday, November 02, 2013


Witness to Murder

Allan Gurganus, "The Man Who Loved Cemeteries," New York Times (October 30, 2013):
This walled churchyard was blessed with a single 300-year-old Magnolia grandiflora. Its roots resembled living concrete flowed molten between salt-white marble blocks. Its limbs, like those of some tropical banyan, had long ago sent down buttressing supports. This evergreen canopy filtered noon's harshness, caught snow's first frostings. But 10 years back, a hurricane knocked one shallow-rooted hickory against the church's steeple. Overnight, the preacher decided: the cemetery’s old magnolia had just become a threat.

Sitting at this very desk at exactly 7 a.m., I heard 11 chain saws whine to life. Eleven chain saws are a lot of chain saws. The pastor, by trying this so early, must've hoped to avoid detection, to short-circuit all neighborly hysteria. Not mine! I ran into her office. "Can I help you?" My explanation of her unholy crime didn't please her. So I ran home and, within minutes, awakened the mayor. I tracked to N.C. State the world’s foremost expert on magnolias. By phone I described the Presbyterian destruction being visited limb by limb. I told him that the specimen's ancient trunk was forked. "Have they cut either of those?" he asked.

"Just the left one."

"Then it's dead."

Would you consider me foolish if I tell you how I cried that day after witnessing the murder of one three-centuries-old living entity by 11 hired chain saws? It is right that Christianity's central tenet is necessary forgiveness.


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