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.
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.
“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.