Friday afternoon gazing out the window of my 7th floor condo I could see the wind picking up. I thought about closing the windows when I noticed the soil from my flower pots on the windowsill blowing out. When the power started flickering on and off my mind shifted to the trees, I spend my working days creating plans to protect them and I wonder if those trees I have tried to protect in the past are coming crashing down on a client’s newly built home. It makes me sad to see majestic giants taken down by extremes in weather but I accept that in nature, very little is in our control. The evening took a tragic turn when news started filtering in of an accident in Milton involving two young arborists. Whenever I hear news about accidents in tree care operations my heart drops to my stomach. For those who are not in the industry it may be difficult to understand, the only word that is powerful enough for me to describe the arboriculture industry is ‘Family’. When I moved to Canada, it was difficult, I left my family and friends in the pursuit of adventure and opportunities, it was only when I attended Humber College to pursue my career in arboriculture that I started to feel at home. I met people there that I am certain I will know for the rest of my days. Work relationships have turned to friendships and developed into bonds that can only be compared to family; the matriarch that took me under her wing, the big brother that I know will always have my back, the protective father checking the windshield washer fluid in my car, and the uncle with a crabby exterior but a soft heart. The annual events each year reunite old colleagues and friends, I always look forward to the ISA conference as it gives me the opportunity to see faces that I don’t run into regularly, to catch up on industry news and learn.
It would be extremely difficult for me to pinpoint the reason for the strong relationships in the arboriculture industry. Is it that the work is extremely hard and we appreciate each member of the team for what they bring to the table? Is it that the industry is relatively small and everyone knows each other, if not well but just a familiar face? Who knows, all I know is that when a member of the arboriculture family dies everyone feels the pain.
I had mixed feelings about writing this, who am I to be expressing my feelings about what happened? I can’t imagine what the families, friends and colleagues are going through. I didn’t feel like my sadness could be justified because I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet the two young arborists. From the outpourings of love that I have seen on social media I know that I would have been glad to know them. I am a perpetual overthinker, those who know me well can support that claim! I don’t have details of what happened to those guys but my mind is filled with potential scenarios. As arborists we all know that the unexpected can happen and it often does. We do all we can to prepare for that but is it possible that we can prepare for every eventuality? Unlikely, trees are living things and it is difficult to apply engineering principles to living organisms. Where does that leave us? It leaves us reliant on the brave individuals who risk their lives on an almost daily basis to keep or valuable urban assets healthy and residents safe. It worries me that the work is becoming riskier due to the emerald ash borer outbreak. I worry that the family will suffer more loss.
I want to express my condolences to those that are suffering from the loss of their loved ones and I want to tell all my fellow arborists out there that I love you all and I respect the heck out of you and want to let you know that I feel lucky every day to be part of something so special.