The giving trees are gone

September 25, 2020


The giving trees are gone - by Leslie Anne Tarabella

My son used to hide Shel Silverstein’s book, “The Giving Tree” and tell me, “Mommy, don’t read this because it makes you cry.” But really now, who amongst us doesn’t like a good tree story? 

After a hurricane in Mobile or tornado in Huntsville, we hear the same response. A damaged roof? — It can be fixed. Downed traffic lights? — Don’t worry, we’ll replace them. No power? — Grab the flashlight. But if a tree falls anywhere in town, we all respond by covering our eyes and grimacing. “Oh, that makes me sick! Just sick!” 

Avenue of the oaks at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama
Avenue of Oaks – Spring Hill College – thank goodness, they had only minor damage to these trees in Mobile, AL.

Alabama is a state that loves its trees. We take our lush-leafy surroundings for granted and only see their beauty when newcomers go crazy over how green everything is. 

“I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree. . .” We learned these lines in school and compared our ladies to magnolias. We covered our floors with warm pine boards and named streets after Dogwoods, Oaks and Crepe Myrtles. 

Magnolias by Leslie Anne Tarabella

Recently emerging from a brutal beating by Hurricane Sally, we’ve seen some inland damage to homes, but it appears this time, we’ve had a record-breaking loss of trees. 

The same son who hid the children’s book from me, grew up and made a tree swing for my Mother’s Day surprise. Much to his embarrassment I wove silk flowers all around the rope handles. “You made it too frilly” he complained. Quarantining at home this summer, I took great delight knowing the person on the other end of my business phone call never realized I was gliding back and forth, dangling my feet in the shade of a giant Shumard Oak — the same 60 ft. tall tree Hurricane Sally tossed into my swimming pool. The pretty swing was dumped in a heap beneath a tangle of branches. 

Tree swing - Leslie Anne Tarabella

Last week, gardening expert Bill Finch wrote a column about how to care for our trees before and after a hurricane. I read Bill’s column as I sat in front of a window overlooking my backyard where 13 large trees were jumbled like the Fiddlesticks game my cousins and I played at the kitchen table. 

Hurricane Sally tree damage by  Leslie Anne Tarabella

Since meteorologists have cried wolf over small tropical storms for the past few years, scaring everyone to death over a big -fat-nothing, no one paid attention to this call for another low-grade storm. What actually came through our neighborhood and most of the city was a Category 2 or maybe even a 3 with rushes of possible tornadoes. 

At dawn, we could finally see our yard. The two trees we were planning on removing later this year were standing strong and tall, while those we cherished for their wall of privacy, shade and color, were scrambled together like green spaghetti.  

Magnolia leaves

“Oh, that makes me sick, just sick!” I told my husband. And all the people in town emerged from their houses, looked at their trees and said the exact same thing. “Sick, just sick.” 

I crawled beneath the horizontal limbs and pulled the swing out to save for another tree, another day. 

This story first appeared on

  • Karyn Tunks says:

    It was (is) a scary and sad time for trees, wildlife, and people. I was so happy three days ago when the birds and squirrels were back! Glad you rescued your little swing.

    • You never even got to come over to swing in it! Now we have to wait for another tree to grow.

  • Oh, the whole thing makes me feel sick Leslie Anne, my daughter and I both started feeling sick on Tuesday, the day before the storm hit, I think we subconsciously knew that it was going to be bad…Seeing the area we love so much torn and battered is truly sickening. I can’t believe all the boats that were tossed around like children’s toys. I am so sorry about your beautiful trees and of course your swing, but at least it didn’t blow away and you could rescue it. Loosing all those beautiful shade and privacy trees is heartbreaking…Years ahead of work for us all, but we’ll get there!

    • The boats! I saw them on the news and can’t believe it. So terrible. I also saw the photos of our pier, so I hate that for you as well. Those of us who grew up in this area know that all will look normal to us in a year or so, although 60′ trees take a little more time. We’ll survive and somehow . . . it’s still worth it to live here!

  • Rebekah Wallace says:

    My sister has lost 25 live oaks due to Ivan and Sally….just absolutely heartbreaking. Cannot be replaced be we can move on. So let’s all plant….just plant something.
    Let the healing begin.

    • Live Oaks are beautiful. My neighbor’s live oak is still strong. I’m thinking of asking if I can put my swing there and go swing in their yard from time to time! You made a good point with a good word . .. “plant.” Keep going and think to the future. I like that!

  • That’s sad to see your sweet swing in a pile on the ground. Sorry you lost all those trees! I’m just glad I’m not seeing a tree on your roof. Glad you are safe…………..

    • One in the swimming pool, but none on the house. We’ve lived here long enough to know to keep them away from the house – although we do have one a little too close, but it was fine, somehow!

  • Reading about the swing made me cry. (I’m to the point in this year that everything is now making me cry; wait til they start the Folger’s Christmas commercials,). After Hugo I thought my beloved Mt. Pleasant and Charleston would never be the same, but Mother Nature has a way of healing what is ugly. You all are safe, that is what matters.

    • I have to look it up, but there’s a force in nature that makes things bloom better and bolder after a storm. – good story idea! And the Folger’s commercials! Yes. That son always comes home at just the right time! sniff-sniff!

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