I am writing this post at the bus stop on my way home from work. I have one of those routes whereby missing my connecting bus by 4 minutes means waiting another 45 for the next one. Despite how cold it is outside and how frustrating it is to type on my phone, I feel compelled to write.
The job I did today was such a refreshing reminder of why I got into tree work to begin with. After five years of catering to clients’ demands, I’ve become jaded and cynical. You would be surprised how many people hate trees. Even those who claim to love them, hate them. Seriously. They may love the romanticized imagery of trees. They may love them in a symbolic or metaphorical sense. But let me tell you, they don’t love them shading their precious grass. Or dropping leaves on their pool. Or getting too tall. Regardless of expertise, education, or years of experience, it is futile to advise a client that cutting their beautiful, favourite, majestic oak tree in half will definitely kill it. It’s just so big. And messy.
It has gotten to the point where I have massacred too many trees to really care anymore. The bright-eyed girl eager to help and heal trees vanished after butchering one-too-many. When I graduated from university, becoming an arborist seemed like a great way to combine science and art. And it should be. The problem is that I was naive to one very important factor: profit. As much as arboriculture should be a balance between aesthetics and physiology, it is ultimately controlled by money. It all comes down to the fact that it’s a business. Clients hold the strings. (Naturally, I am referring to work in the private sector.) Some companies are more credible than others. They may have more up-to-date practices, encourage clients to make better tree care decisions, or flat out walk away from unreasonable jobs. But even reputable companies need to make money, which means finding a balance between science, beauty, and client demands.
The whole reason I decided to take a job at this new company is because they have a strong reputation for excellence in the industry. It will open up many opportunities to get involved in a side of trees care that goes beyond production climbing. Today, I got to experience a small glimpse into that other side of tree care. The Ministry of Natural Resources is involved in a Butternut recovery program, part of which includes attempting to graft Butternut scions (healthy branch tips) onto Black Walnut root stocks in order to preserve their genetics. Butternuts are a native, endangered tree, susceptible to a fungal canker. Today I had the opportunity to climb to the tips of a mature Butternut and snip off some of the scions for collection. The job itself was quick, easy, and laid back. I felt good doing my little part for tree preservation. A glimmer of hope was sparked that maybe, just maybe, I’m on the path to cleansing myself of the cynicism that has tainted me. Maybe this is the route that takes me back to the ambitious spirited person who truly cared about doing good for trees everywhere.