Please bear with me, as I grieve an incredible loss, and offer up my guilt and deepest sorrow at my failure as a steward. I cannot yet even go outside to face the many beloved family members who have been harmed this morning. I have no idea how to begin to make amends.
For the past 15 years or so, I and my husband have been nurturing an ecosystem restoration on our 1/3-acre plot in the Coast Range hills of California. The entire focus was on creating thriving, inhabited habitat for native flora, fauna, pollinators, fungi, you name it. And we have done all the work with our own four hands (except for the occasional beer-and-pizza-bribed-lawyer-friends who helped push and spread many hundreds of wheelbarrows of mulch for us).
Over the past year and a half, my husband even took leave of the paycheck-issuing world, to work with me full-time, building a mini-farm and orchard, seamlessly integrated with the habitat areas. Then, two months ago, he returned to the “working world,” leaving me to tend the gardens at home. And I do my best, but I do not have the body strength or stamina to do the serious tree-pruning and maintenance work by myself. So, this morning, I hired help: a “service,” supposedly skilled with trees, with an arborist, supposedly supervising.
I spent an entire afternoon doing a walk-through with the arborist, spelling out in small words how this area was a restored habitat area — not just a bunch of pretty, “specimen” trees for the view. That deadwood and forest-floor ‘debris’ were to be left alone. That thickly-canopied trees, which sheltered a menagerie of native bird nesting sites, were NOT to be thinned — the animals need that cover as protection from raptors. That the low hanging branches (except directly overhead along narrow paths) and scrubby, thorny thickets were to be LEFT ALONE because they provided shelter, protected hiding places, etc. for breeding rabbits, quail, lizards, and the like. He smiled, nodded, repeated back to me, and scribbled notes. I assumed that he truly understood. I assumed that he would supervise. I assumed that he would clearly communicate my requirements to his crew.
And I turned my back for two hours of homeschooling, and trusted. I failed to watch. I failed to check. I failed to make sure. Gross negligence.
I first became aware of my terrible error when I saw a series of bird-plows from out my window. And then the angry, frantic bird-alarms began.
When I raced outside to see what was going on:
All the trees’ skirts had been raised to six feet; completely eradicating all the leafy screens that our critters depend upon for cover. The trees had been thinned dramatically (“artistically” the arborist claims), and birds nests destroyed. Brush cleared out and removed, and forest floor was being power-blown away, before my screaming finally convinced the man with the machine to turn it off.
I kicked them all off the property, as best I could. The only English-speaking person (the arborist) was nowhere to be found.
And now, I am in tears.
When I finish crying, I will go outside and try to apologize to all the wildlife harmed through my negligence. I will try to make amends. I just have no idea how to do it.
And tomorrow, I will begin to study Spanish.