Newspapers with a local slant fulfil an important social mission if they keep the locals informed of developments that affect or will affect their daily lives. On Friday evening, I stumbled across such an article on the website of a local newspaper, filed under the tag ‘Vevey’, after I had decided to check whether 24heures had published anything in connection with the post I had written on the centenary of the IOC’s presence in Lausanne. Entitled ‘Buddhist flags for the old plane tree’, the article presents a somewhat heart-breaking account of an old man’s wish to say goodbye to a tree which is likely to have been cut down by the time this post is published.
This ancient plane tree, estimated to be some 200 years old, was put on a list of trees to be felled by the service in charge of the parks in Vevey after a tragic accident that took place last year near the railway station: an ailanthus (ironically, the etymology, ailanto, means ‘tree of heaven’) unexpectedly collapsed on a Friday evening in June and its branches hit a group of teenage girls who were passing by the railway station. Apparently, a mushroom had devoured a good deal of the inside of the trunk. Unfortunately, one girl was seriously injured. This is why the public authorities of Vevey decided to review the state of health of the 2,570 trees growing on the commune and have some felled.
Buddhist decoration for an old plane tree poised to be axed today; the tree was partly hollow (see rectangle) and as such could have been dangerous.
The oldest tree on Vevey‘s market square was one of the unfortunate trees to have been included in this list. Some people feel a special connection to trees and an old man, a local who had had a shop nearby and who had been enjoying the presence of the plane tree since 1960, felt so sad about this decision that he decided to honour the tree’s last few days by decorating it with some Tibetan prayer flags (source: ‘Buddhist flags for the old plane tree’).
Although I am not a tree-hugger (wait, I have nothing against people who are), I feel a sense of awe and almost veneration for very old trees (see my entry on an ‘old tree errand’ in the region). So after having read about this poor tree’s forthcoming fate, I decided to go and see it – especially as I also wanted to see the ‘narcissus exhibition’ along the promenade at Montreux (more about this in a future entry).
Even if I was a little disappointed in that I had expected the tree to be bigger (more like its cousin at Cully) and there did not seem to be many people interested in it (probably because of the sandwich eatery just next to it which looked like it was attracting only a set of rather young and trendy patrons prepared to pay what I consider to be rip-off prices, i.e. CHF18 for a veggie sandwich and a beer!), I enjoyed sitting near the tree so that when a table closer to the tree became free, I quickly moved there.
While I was sitting enjoying the tree’s presence, an old lady dressed very elegantly appeared in between the tables where young adults were seated and moved almost shyly towards the old tree plane. Finally, somebody with whom I felt some kinship. I do not know whether it was because I was looking at her (I even tried to snap a shot of her touching the tree with my smartphone as discreetly as I could) or because she felt intimidated by the young people or even self-conscious, but she did not stay long: she slowly moved around the tree, touching it twice or three times, looked upwards at the top branches and disappeared as shyly as she had come. Dear lady, I hope that I did not make you feel self-conscious by looking at you; if so, all my apologies! On the moment, I took solace in the thought that you might still be able to come again to see the tree this morning.
It is so sad to think that this tree must be gone by now, but this is part of life: living creatures do not live forever…