© Another Day in the Country
St. Helena is a little town at the bottom of a hill where my daughter lives in California.
It’s a smallish town by California standards, about the size of our biggest towns here in Marion County.
You would think their civic problems would be different from our concerns in Kansas, but when I pick up their paper I’m always surprised to discover that whether a small town is in Kansas or a small town in California, they’re still having similar issues.
People will be people no matter where you find them.
Evidently there’s a problem in St. Helena as to who is responsible for elm trees as you enter town from the north end of the valley.
The trees were planted years and years ago and make a lovely canopied lane coming into town. Maybe 20 years ago, elm disease threatened those trees. In fact, we lost several (that is a civic minded “we” because I identified with the trees and loved driving underneath them).
All kinds of remedies to save the trees ensued but, despite great effort, several of them died and had to be replaced.
So a great discussion ensued, with lots of rules and regulations cited and political ramifications as to who was responsible.
The trees were within city limits but beside the road. They were part of the town’s heritage but still on right-of-way property. And people being people, arguments ensued as to whom would get a permit from whomever to replant with what kinds of trees so there eventually would be a lovely, unsullied canopy over the road for perpetuity.
Recently, I drove under the erstwhile elms after dropping my daughter off at work.
“Who’s taking care of the elms?” I wondered.
Suckers were sprouting off lower trunks. Weeds three feet high surrounded them. It made for a generally messy view driving in and out of St. Helena. And St. Helena is a very lovely, high-end town with millions of tourists coming through. The elms were looking flat-out tacky.
I’m sure that in February and March there were fiery orange California poppies and lovely blue lupins blooming in the grass beside the road and under the elm trees, but now it’s just weeds.
People being people, it seems the buck is being passed from one agency to another each weighing in on whether it is ecologically sound to mow the grass and trim the suckers.
When, after months of haggling with different entities, St. Helena finally got permission to replace dead elms with younger trees, I recall, the trees languished because, people being people, it was difficult to decide whose responsibility it would be to take care of them.
I wanted to volunteer and say, “Me, choose me! I’ll take care of pruning the trees and watering them,” but I don’t live nearby anymore.
Hanging in the hallway of my family’s home in California is a mobile my 9-year-old grandson made in school.
It’s a big cloud with smaller clouds attached. The big cloud it says “My Dreams!” On the smaller clouds Dagfinnr has written about his dreams for the world.
“My dream for my community is that people will stop littering,” he’d written on one cloud. Another cloud says, “My dream for the world is that global warming will be stopped.” And then, finally, is a more personal dream: “My dream for myself is to have good luck in school,” whatever that means. I had to smile.
People will be people. Whether old or young, we have similar hopes and dreams — similar problems to solve and similar foibles. Whether we live in the country or in the city, small towns or big ones, the question is “Who is responsible?” And, people being people, there’s a tendency to pass the buck.
It’s another day in the country, and imagine what would happen if today each of us took seriously our part of the responsibility for living together on this beautiful planet.