I can see all the greens — and the ruby tints from the maples — above the Boardman River. There are a myriad of greens: green trees, green river, green rushes, the green heron. Slowly, in this cold late spring, the river becomes obscured by leaves on the trees.
I live in a senior housing complex above the Boardman (Ottaway) River and in 2019 there have never been so many shades of green. Spring didn’t arrive one hot night in May like last year, but incrementally and the shades of green are endlessly fascinating.
Many people in my building cannot leave. What they see is out their window. Did you know the green heron has a ruby-colored breast and an enormous wingspan?
I’m not in a wheelchair (yet), but can imagine a time when the river out my window will be all I have of natural beauty. Food and shelter are important for survival, but important, too — to the human spirit and to the desire to survive — is the beauty of nature.
City workers spray herbicides along the sidewalks. Those poisons will find their way into the river. I have witnessed, in the two years I’ve been in Traverse City, many unsettling decisions by city fathers and others.
n No setback from the river for the Uptown condos.
n Clear-cutting of Morgan Hill.
n Removal of large shade trees at the corner of 14th and Veterans Drive and the corner of Garfield and Front.
n New buildings flush with the sidewalk along Front Street; no trees, only concrete.
n Cutting of trees at the airport.
n City land, zoned for a park, is a parking lot and weekend farm market.
What seems to be missing from the minds of city representatives is a love of natural beauty. They are doing old-style development: quick and easy, alarmingly devoid of aesthetic awareness or even the practical need to keep trees for cooling shade or to mitigate carbon monoxide poisoning. They appear to be throwbacks to an earlier time, like the lumber barons who cut all the trees when they first came to Traverse City and never imagined people getting sick from pollution or weed killer. What are they thinking about the future? Maybe they aren’t. The feeling one has is like being in a car with a teenager behind the wheel, one who has not learned how to drive and would like to go fast.
Natural beauty, in case it hasn’t dawned on the people running the city, is at the core of not only good health but good real estate values. Without the beautiful trees to clean the air — and without which there won’t be clean water in the bay and river — Traverse City will be little different from an endless mall.
About the author: Kathleen Stocking is an award-winning essayist with two Michigan bestsellers, “Letters from the Leelanau” and “Lake Country.” Her most recent book, “The Long Arc of the Universe — Travels Beyond the Pale,” is based on her third-world travels, including two tours in the Peace Corps. She recently finished a fourth book of essays about Leelanau County titled “From the Place of the Gathering Light,” which is scheduled to be published in 2019. She lives on the Boardman River in Traverse City.