A Tree of Life — Right outside my Window

Whenever I need a brief respite from my work, I get out on my fire escape for a little air: Astoria, Queens, New York City, USA air.

From my wrought iron perch, I am regularly treated to a wide range of urban bird companions. In these moments, I can’t help but imagine what it might have been like in pre-Industrial or pre-Colombian days. I’ve read tales of the sky being darkened for days by a single flock of birds.

Sounds like another planet to me — and perhaps even to the birds I see in the Astoria sky.

Common sightings include pigeons, starlings, sparrows, robins, bluejays, crows, and seagulls. Sometimes, I’ll catch a glimpse of a cardinal or a squawking flock of green parrots. On other occasions, my humble neighborhood will play host to a raven, kestrel, or red-tailed hawk.

The mourning doves may be my favorites …

My most plentiful feathered friends are the incredible sparrows. How they would chirp up a storm in the beautiful and resilient tree that stood just two backyards away. Proud parents zipped in and out of the branches to feed their young. The result was a symphony of cheeps, peeps, and (non-problematic) tweets.By the way, I called the tree beautiful because, well… scroll back up and look again at the photo at the top of this post.When I moved into my current apartment back in 2006, an unexpected perk was having a majestic tree behind my new building. When I’d come home, almost immediately, I could see straight through my entranceway into my kitchen and a wall of green would be visible through the windows.This vision became the norm (but never taken for granted) for more than 6 years. Even through the harshest of winters, I appreciated her presence and grace.

Why resilient, you wonder? Well, on October 20, 2012, I walked in my door and instantly sensed that something was askew. More light than usual was streaming through my kitchen window! I rushed over to look and this is what I saw:

In a matter of seconds, I could discern the frightful situation. I grabbed my camera, tears streaming down my face, and climbed out onto my fire escape to document the slaughter.As I aimed and clicked, the hired hitman surveyed his handiwork — with phallocentric weapon properly positioned.

The men weren’t done until there was virtually nothing left.

The next day, a confused squirrel was left to wonder what had become of not just a tree but an entire ecosystem. It was a microcosmic glimpse at a relentless culture of domination.


Plot twist: The image at the top of this article is not a memorial to my beloved tree. I just took that photo on May 13, 2023. Reports of its demise, my friends, were greatly exaggerated.During its last 11 trips around the sun, this magnificent tree slowly, relentlessly ascended. You might even say it was born again.

Mickey Z. is the creator of a podcast called Post-Woke. You can subscribe here. He is also the founder of Helping Homeless Women - NYC, offering direct relief to women on New York City streets. Spread the word. Read other articles by Mickey.