On Trees and Suburbia and Civic Disobedience


On Trees and Suburbia and Civic Disobedience


Suburbia is my country, my home and native land. Suburbia is where I live. I live in an uneasy peace with Suburbia; a fragile peace. Not in outright rebellion. I take my cue from the trees of this country and opt for a quiet form of Civic disobedience.


Suburbia as a land is the ultimate expression of the human need to control, to subjugate, to leash the random and unpredictable. It is all boxes, straight lines, hard concrete, greys and muted browns and sameness. It is the antithesis of unpredictable, the rigidity to root out randomness. Explosions of color are not welcome, or messiness, or complicated spiderwebs of lines and curls and odds and ends. Those things get tucked away in Suburbia, in pale green boxes or lawn bags, hidden inside walls or by walls, covered up like the embarrassing bits of our bodies.


Suburbia presents only the presentable. Suburbia is ordered lines, straight posts, steel and pavement, grates and gravel and rectangular forms. Suburbia controls all that comes within its borders.


Suburbia hacks and hews trees, uproots and displaces. Suburbia uses trees. Suburbia uses the sawed, sanded, treated trees to erect the boxes that force out the trees. And then Suburbia plants trees where Suburbia wants them. Trees in rows, trees in singles and pairs, lone trees sometimes where thousands once stood. And then the sameness of Suburbia absorbs the trees into its structure and desires to control them and contain them.


But the trees of Suburbia disobey, silently, often in underground movements that go completely undetected.


Planted in rows yet none look the same, not like the posts that were once their kin. Some full, some spindly, some fat, some sleek, some soaring, some spreading, some twisted, some straight. Yet not too straight. They stand with silent voices screaming a protest to the surrounding geometric repression. Planted inside fences they grow where they will: Above, through, underneath those fences. Trees will grow around a fence, even taking bits of it into themselves, as if to remind Suburbia that it is not alive like them, not capable of consuming nature but only capable of keeping it at bay. For a time.


Time is what trees have beyond the counting of Suburbia. Patience is what they claim, in the midst of the impatience of rigidity and fear.


Suburbia encourages a separation from your kind. Trees disobey. They sneak underneath. They invade unseen. They crawl under soil, under hedges, under roads. They go deeper beyond any Suburban claim to “own” the land. Trees know that ownership is a lie, an abstract and silly idea in a land eons old and full of memory. And trees do remember. And trees do not forget.


Trees reach up and out, sending a mad criss-cross of curvy lines across the boxes and rectangles. Trees explode with color. Trees make the messes. Trees create the complicated spider-webs to ensure they will not be snared by Suburbia. Trees refuse to yield. Trees refuse to acknowledge fake borders and abstract rules of ownership. Trees exist with a sense of purpose that makes Suburbia seem as shallow as a mile-wide puddle that goes an inch deep.


Trees teach me patience in my Suburban angst. Trees show me the way to bend in all the straightness. Trees mark out random and messy paths in the middle of the lines that threaten to box me in. Trees encourage my own quiet Civic disobedience.


And so I disobey. I walk and present a rebellious figure, slowly and patiently moving amid the frantic and fueled sameness of the grey, black, white and muted blue colored cars. I let my leaves lie and my lawn grow high and put the lie to the Suburban Act of Conformity. I look up and see the sky and feel the sun and thank the trees. I know that they will outlive Suburbia. I know they will outlive me. And in that is freedom. I too grow underneath, beyond borders, beyond boundaries. I laugh at the seemingly self-assured Suburbia which is really just self-obsessed and self-conscience, always unnerved by anything it can’t control. The trees seem to look down on us all, on it all, and quietly observe, “Why the fuss?”


So I love the trees of this country, of Suburbia. Silent sentinels speaking truth every day to us in this land, if we have ears to hear.



Ron, December 7, 2018

Orleans – a suburb of Ottawa, Ontario