A tart slice of city life

Every year around this time, a little drama plays out at Kendrick Place, the downtown condo development near Chesapeake’s restaurant.

It pits neighbor against neighbor and even has a life hanging in the balance. The life of a controversial pear tree.

Gay Lyons and an "offending" pear

Gay Lyons and an "offending" pear

Here’s the problem. For a long time – some think from around 1982 when the historic condos were renovated by developer Kristopher Kendrick – there has been this pear tree growing on the back fence line between the condos and the Masonic Lodge on Locust Street. For most of the year the tree is not a problem. In the late spring, it is an asset, even, with its pretty blossoms swaying in the breeze.

But then the blossoms drop off and are replaced by hard little green pears, which fall onto the patio and rot, causing a smelly mess and creating dangerous, slippery spots and attracting unwanted animals and insects. Several residents have slipped and fallen as a result of the decaying fruit.

Coincidentally, at about the time the fruit appears, comes time for Kendrick Place to have its annual homeowners’ association meeting. And almost every year, someone wants to cut down the pear tree.

Last month, sure enough, when the agenda for the meeting came out, there was one item that simply said, “Pear tree.”

Condo owners Gay and Bill Lyons noticed it. “Somehow I just didn’t think the item was placed on the agenda by someone who wanted to save the pear tree,” Gay says wryly. So she hatched a plan.

The neighbors gathered for the meeting in one of the condos and when the pear tree item came up on the agenda, Gay was the first to raise her hand. “I’d like to read you something,” she said, pulling out a book.

It was a poem called, “Pears.” Here’s how it went.

Poet Judy Loest

Poet Judy Loest

“Every summer after the white blooms of the pear tree have blown away, revealing hundreds of tiny green embryos, the dread of all that bruised, rotting fruit on the sidewalk and street next October, the weeks long tedium of keeping it picked up prompts the neighbors to renew discussions about cutting it down. They bring in landscape architects to confirm the annual prognosis: the city is no place for a pear tree.

“But deep in the dark burrows of ancient memory, they know that if they destroy life in the name of vanity, an invisible fiber or vein connecting them to the infinite will be severed, a dark indelible stain will appear on the walk precisely the circumference of its cool shade and all the mourning doves will disappear.”

Gay closed the book. There was silence. “Is that about OUR pear tree?” someone asked.

Seems so. The poem was written by a former Kendrick Place resident, Judy Loest, a published poet active in the Knoxville Writers Guild and recognized nationally.

Nothing else about the tree was said at the meeting. They simply went on to the next agenda item. Crisis averted until this time in 2010.

Meanwhile, Lyons has a plan to keep this from happening next year. An excellent cook, she’s going to make some of the pears into desserts – maybe little turnovers or tarts or something – and give them to each of her neighbors. “You can’t just cut down a tree after you’ve eaten of its fruit,” she says sweetly.

Filed under: Art, Downtown, Historic preservation, Knoxville, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to A tart slice of city life

  1. Tami Hartmann, on July 20th, 2009 at 12:00 pm said:

    That certainly is fruit for thought! Maybe some enterprising condo owner could make a little money for the homeowners association by selling the offensive little nuggets at the market square farmer’s market. You certainly can’t get much more locally grown than that!

  2. Bill Lyons, on July 20th, 2009 at 3:05 pm said:

    The saga of the pear tree continues thanks to this timely and insightful report from the Blue Streak staff. Perhaps a bushel of morsels may appear at an upcoming Farmers Market. First Grainger County tomatoes, then Kendrick Place pears.

  3. Teresa Scott, on July 20th, 2009 at 3:10 pm said:

    I can just hear Gay saying “you can’t just cut down a tree after you’ve eaten of its fruit”. Go Gay! Cynthia, please be sure and give us a fall update.

  4. Eric Smith, on July 20th, 2009 at 3:14 pm said:

    Love it! The power of words!

  5. Mary Holbrook, on July 20th, 2009 at 5:52 pm said:

    Regardless of the charms of the pear tree – and Gay may find it less charming when she lives with it more closely – our tree experts says it may have outgrown its location and be on a slide toward the axe.

  6. Gay Lyons, on July 20th, 2009 at 5:59 pm said:

    Nothing like poetry to silence a room and avert a crisis. Imagine the power of poetry + tarts!

  7. Vicki Baumgartner, on July 20th, 2009 at 7:02 pm said:

    Pear butter and buttermilk biscuits (of course you will need to pick up the buttermilk from the Cruze Farm at the Sat Farmer’s Mkt). A real taste of the south. Your neighbors will praise the tree!

  8. Jim Cortese, on July 20th, 2009 at 7:59 pm said:

    Gay is the recipient of the Cortese Tree Preservation award of the day! Congratulations on your accomplishment!

  9. John Dominic Barbarino, on July 20th, 2009 at 9:03 pm said:

    A crisis in a pear tree expertly averted. Though, why does it take intelligence and cunning to do the obvious. Maintain. Just pick the pears, prune dead branches, and have a lovely yard.

  10. karen kluge, on July 20th, 2009 at 9:17 pm said:

    There is not one bad pear that spoils the whole barrel. I am thankful always for the incredible community in which I live. I am an urbanite yet, still hold a appreciation, awe, and understanding of the fine balance we need to maintain between man and nature ( nature seems to be the under dog). I lived in Italy for a few years and we had to harvest the olives before they hit the ground and were bruised and rotted. As was done, we simply put up netting to catch the olives as the fell and problem solved. We can do the same at Kendrick Place for minimal expense, as well as , preserve the tree. There is no one’s position that does not have merit. The fallen pears can be very hazardous!

  11. Gay Lyons, on July 20th, 2009 at 10:25 pm said:

    It is one of the charms of our neighborhood that we can disagree with wit, graciousness, poetry and tarts–rather than with slings and arrows. I love both my neighbors & that pear tree.

  12. karen kluge, on July 20th, 2009 at 10:55 pm said:

    We love you too, Gay!

    Yours truly,
    The pear tree and the tart

  13. Bob Wilson, on July 22nd, 2009 at 3:35 pm said:

    Hey Gay,

    I have a pear tree in my back yard, so if you run out of “ammunition” let me know and I’ll be happy to help.

    Bob (@bobinmotion)

  14. Pingback:No Partridge in a Pear Tree in Knoxville | Stuck Inside of Knoxville

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