Vanishing Act

My wife and I used to travel to New York City about once or twice a year. Each trip we would look forward to returning to a club or restaurant we’d discovered the last time we were in the city. On our return, too often we’d turn a corner, crawl out of a cab, or ascend up from the subway in eager anticipating seeing our destination again, only to discover it was gone. Sometimes even the building which had housed our remembered destination was gone.

New York, like most large cities, is an extremely dynamic place. “Here today, gone tomorrow.” Bits of the city vanish overtime to be replaced by new and different bits.  In New York, for example,  I’ve watched over the past two decades as Times  Square has gone from the seedy squalor of drug dealers, hookers, garish porn shops and  live sex shows to  new, brightly lit, antiseptic, “family friendly” Disney themed theaters, upscale hotels, shops and restaurants.

The photo below was taken on April 12, 2007.   This distinctive, lopsided tree sat on a modest bluff just to the right off Highway 321 (as you head toward Maryville) a few miles to the east of Lenoir City. This set contains all the views of the tree I captured during different times of day and of the year. Something about the tree made me want to photograph it.

I discovered today the tree, my tree, was gone. I was returning from Athens and was driving back along 321 toward Maryville. I glanced up to admire my tree and saw instead a new, beige mobile home and the evidence of some recent commencement of construction in the precise spot my tree had stood.

Every time I had passed my tree over the past year or so I thought to myself: “I need to come back here and take another bunch of photos.” I fantasized coming down very early in the morning and, perhaps, catching my tree  in mist or fog, or with a lovely sunrise sky behind it. Someday I’d come. After all, it wasn’t as if my tree could just up and walk away.

I’ve taken photos of other things that subsequently vanished: several old, dilapidated  barns and buildings. Somehow I expected these structures would disappear. Buildings naturally decay and are replaced. But not my tree. A tree is a living, growing thing; trees can live for many decades. In my mind my tree had a permanence. I never had any thought it might simply vanish. It was an organic part of the landscape, the same as a mountain or the sky.

But I was wrong. My tree has vanished.

Its unexpected absence  shocked me. I feel more alone in the world And a bit older, too.

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