A hole in our hearts, the size of a banyan tree

 

If you have been following my family’s story at all, you probably are aware that we have had a long-term goal of moving our family of five to a jewel of a city in SW Florida called Punta Gorda.  Now I could write an entire book on the ups and downs, challenges, struggles, and finally triumph of buying land and securing a construction loan to build a new home on the land that we lovingly named “The Banyan Breeze.”

After many visits down to the city scouting for homes, falling in love with the area more and more, finding homes and getting outbid on offers, putting in another offer that was accepted only to find out that the home wasn’t a sound investment for us, termites, rotting wood, and many other various factors, we decided to purchase land and do it our way.


After studying the real estate market and was was available for land  in the area, we found “the one” and were lucky enough to close on our property on my 38th birthday.   It was going to be perfect for us.

It was in a neighborhood just 3 minutes north of the hustle and bustle of a charming downtown, with a mix of homes from different demographics and eras, it had lush, tropical landscaping , mature trees, beautiful banyans,  and the Charlotte Harbor was steps away.  We were elated!

When we went to start the building process so many roadblocks appeared that we decided to throw in the towel and take a pause.  Building a home in Florida is not like building a home in Massachusetts.  There are special laws, permits, roofs, insurances,  foundations, and so many unique nuances that we felt in over our heads.

Our dream moving our family to Punta Gorda  just wouldn’t die.  So we decided to go on the house hunt again and just put the idea of building away.  I won’t bore you with details of finding an amazing home in an amazing neighborhood with a pool,  putting the highest offer on the home, offer getting accepted, but then having a horrible home inspection that just sent us spinning until we sadly had to let it go.  I’ll just jump to the part where we went back to the idea of building, did our due diligence researching,  and finally hiring a builder to finally turn “The Banyan Breeze” into a reality.

It has taken a long time to get to this moment.  More than five years, determination, lots of tears, soul-searching, questioning everything, and almost the breakdown of the most important thing we have…our family.

So needless to say when we closed on our loan recently, it was cause for celebration.  I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off our shoulders,  and we were excited to start this journey!  We were told yesterday that they would begin clearing land and doing site work next week or the week after.  Happiness filled our hearts.

 

The plan was to only clear the trees that were absolutely necessary to build our home, leaving as many trees untouched as we could, and especially protecting that banyan tree.  We also had on the property a beautiful pine tree, cabbage palms, and an assortment of other palms that dotted the border of the land like a dream.   We were so excited to get started next week and start seeing some progress.

Yesterday, my aunt and uncle were in Punta Gorda and asked our future address so they could check out our new neighborhood,  and this is where the story takes a turn.  They sent pictures of the work already done on our land and the clearing that has already happened.  Only to our shock and surprise, the trees that were supposed to be spared so we could have our lush, tropical, mature landscaped yard, that were all anchored with our bigger than dreams, sacred banyan were all gone. Bulldozed, cut and pushed into a pile, waiting for a truck to haul them away like garbage.


My heart broke in half seeing the wreckage that lie there,  and a deep sadness knowing that this mistake that someone had made was not reversible.   It was irreconcilable and there are no words to describe what my soul felt in that instant.

So here I sit, writing this chapter because I really don’t know what else to do with myself right now.  My eyes are swollen and red from sobbing as I mourn the loss of all those magical trees. Mourning that no matter how much money is spent we can never get back the years it took to grow and cultivate such a perfect slice of heaven.  Mourning the fact that Bryan and I already talked about gathering our friends and family around the banyan,  in all its glory and renewing our vows. Mourning the fact that our kids couldn’t wait to play in that tree, build a tree-house and look for fairies.

The privacy between us and our neighbors, the sounds of the palm leaves rustling in the breeze, the variety of trees and foliage that is now just a memory makes my body physically sick to think about.

What happens now,  we have no idea.  We feel a million miles away and are at the mercy of waiting for a phone call back where someone can explain how this happened and what we an do to remedy this horrible mistake.   I guess this tale will continue to unfold, lessons will be learned, and we push on forward in this together as we always do.  But for now,  I need to give myself some space to heal.  To be consoled somehow with my endless hope that the best is yet to come.

Dear banyan, I am sorry.  I am such a tree-lover and connected with nature that this absolutely rips my heart out.  I honor you with these words here on this page because trees don’t get a voice,  and I felt like ours wasn’t heard either.  I am sorry to see you go as you return to the earth from which you are from.

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