Covid-19 Confinement

On March 17 we in France were all ordered to stay home to avoid spreading and catching the mysterious virus that was rampaging across the globe.

The draconian measures in place here insisted that we not venture further than 1 kilometer from our homes, and spend no longer than 1 hour away. To enforce these dictates, we are obliged to fill out an “Attestation de Déplacement Dégoratoire“, a form giving temporary dispensation from the stay-at-home order. On the form are a few activites which are permitted: going to work, if telecomuting isn’t available, buying food, going to the doctor, making an appearance at court, or 1-hour of outdoor exercise. Nowhere on the form is a box to check when one wants to rescue a chain-bound tree.

Back in the days when we wandered around in liberty and on the way to my nearby Spanish class, I had noticed a Pawlonia tormento tree struggling to grow whilst bound by a sturdy, increasingly suffocating, chain, probably hung around a much narrower trunk many years ago.

Knowing that the live part of the trunk, through which the leaves get hydrated and nourished, and the roots obtain the products of photosynthesis, was slowly being ligatured to death, I felt compelled to do something.

Before the lock-down, I had asked the café owner, on whose terrace this tree was eeking out a life (oh the days when people could talk with one another so blithely!), if he understood how the previous owner had endangered this tree. He was amenable to taking care of the problem. But then the shelter-in-place order befell Aix.

Not having any voyou friends from which to borrow chain-cutting tools, and obsessed with freeing the tree, I ordered some tools— a tiny saw, and a crowbar.

I eagerly awaited the appearance of their delivery. I was disappointed that only the saw made its appearance at first, but I immediately set about slicing through the 5mm-thick metal. When first opened, the force built up by the growing tree expressed itself with a satisfying “pop!”.

Unfortunately, cleaving a few links wasn’t sufficient to open up the chain’s hold on the tree. I needed a crowbar to pry open the very strong links. I also needed a tool to lever the chain out of the trench it had cut into the bark. I am very fortunate in having a super-handy brother in law, who devised a powerful lever for these purposes. Made from a sturdy length of corner-cut steel, Bernard custom-shaped the ends to fit the obstinate links. The length and weight of the tool provided me, rather a weakling, with the necessary leverage to accomplish both tasks easily.

What satisfaction I had pulling off the embedded chain from the trunk! And what a relief to see that the damage to the bark was minimal, even though the chain had halfway embedded itself. So, scarred, but free, this tree for the first time in many years, can go about its life. The leaves are just emerging, and I look forward to the flowers.

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