Trees and Bark

The flowers on my new dogwood tree.

There are other things that are happening that are not, technically, the remodel, but are still part of the rehabilitation of the homestead. The remodel is of the house. It’s of plaster and wiring, and composite quartz, and plumbing and fixtures, and windows and siding, and cabinets and paint. And floors.

There are other projects that are happening simultaneously. These projects are of improvement, but not necessarily coordinated. These things, like blob removal, have also been on the list. It is just now happening. It’s happenstance, the confluence of projects, that is.

The city has an amazing program that makes it easy to have rain barrels installed, to install landscaping with native flowers and grasses and to plant trees.

When we first moved here, the back of the lot was lined with old, Ent-like monsters, circling our yard, standing tall with branches full of green leaves. Some of the specimens stretched sixty or eighty feet into the sky. Birds during the day and bats at dusk would fly from one to another, taking their bug meals to-go.

Some of the rough gray and black trunks became incased in ivy. The invasive thick green tendrils would crawl up the tree and fool us into thinking that the tree was healthy. Fortunately, only one of the big trees fell during a storm. But many others became sick one distressed branch the size of a canoe at a time. The neigbhors began to take them down before they collapsed on a roof of a house or a car.

One neighbor took down a healthy tree. We were mad about that, but he hates nature anyway. You can tell by the astroturf that is his yard. And the white stones that fill the tree box that the city owns in front of his house. At least there’s a tree there. Yay community spaces.

When my first dog ever died, The Spouse buried that fluffy yellow beast in the back of our lot. It’s actually allowed–even in the city. And I wanted a dogwood as a remembrance. And, as is my way, I thought about it much more than I acted upon it.

The city program is designed to stop stormwater runoff to the Bay and to restore the tree canopy for the birds and the bees and the bats and the beauty. When the city said that they would bring in and plant shade trees, I scoured the list of tree types. Yes! They offered flowering trees, too. Two more years passed before we finally got our assessment.

Two rain barrels, landscaping and four trees. And one could be a dogwood.

The friendly team from Casey’s Trees planted the trees last week on a Friday. They put a white birch with the curly bark where the blob was. They dug holes in the backyard to install a white oak and a red maple along the fence line and a sweet dogwood to the right of the garage. I dutifully watered my new charges and watched the buds form and begin to unfurl almost like a time-lapse on the National Geographic channel.

This week, a mere few days after planting, the dogwood bloomed. It displayed the creamy white petals filled with little green candies on up-stretched branches that look, to me at least, as if the tree is offering itself to me.

And I am grateful. Woof!


In Alaska's Katmai National Park, there are abundant sock-eye salmon in the rivers and abundant bears hungry for them. Here a brown bear bounds and splashes after a school of the red fish.

I’m not that person who simply cannot sit still. I’m happy to sit. On the couch all day. Football game after football game and any and every Olympic sport in a row. Binge watching Agents of Shield, Modern Family or Jessica Jones. Wasting hours on social media avoiding FOMO or trying to write this stuff. I spend hours on “photo editing.” Counting wave after wave hitting the shore while sitting on a towel. I can do chores in my mind with eyes closed. I bet I’d be good at hibernating, too.

But I’m feeling that shimmer. That tweaked tuning fork oscillating back and forth that you feel more than see. The vibrations of an eardrum working up sound. The whir of hummingbird wings that you can’t see, but you feel the engine of their 70 beats a minute. The coming together of cold and warm air in the creation of a storm.

I’m not really restless as much as agitated, but like the piston of a washing machine, not like anger. I wonder if I’m blinking more. Is the hair on my head quietly undulating, unseen by a passing family member? I am perched on the edge of, I don’t know. Something.

The Spouse asked me if I was coming down with something. I don’t think so.

I told him that I would sleep it off. We’ll see how that goes.

Just Rewards

A box of ice cream with a spoon in it sitting on top of a computer.

I am eating ice cream for lunch. Out of the carton. There wasn’t a full pint left, and I’m going to eat it all.

It’s cardamom-vanilla. It’s super creamy and mostly vanilla-y, except for a small warm sharpness from the spice. It’s from the pop-up ice cream store. The pop-up is run by pirates. I call them pirates because they hang black tarps over the dairy coolers in the back and sell their own brand of ice cream on Sundays when the dairy that owns that space are at church. I guess it’s okay to take rent on the Lord’s Day.

I am pre-rewarding myself for completing a task that I have been putting off completing for the past two weeks. This makes my pre-reward a bit more than brazen. It’s alot of work to do and has a hard deadline which is fast approaching, so fast that it will (too?) soon be in my rearview mirror.

Actually, while I said that I have put off the completion, I really haven’t started it yet.

This is sadly what I do. I have been counseling Baby Bear on his application of these patterns. We know we cause ourselves stress, and yet we watch ourselves perform the same choreography ad nauseam. I’m old. I don’t know that I can do it another way.

So, I am eating ice cream and writing a blog post. Now I’m thinking that I could take a walk and clear my head. I pick up my charged phone in case there’s Pokémon on my route.

Might just be another long night.

Cheesey Post

burnt grilled cheese sandwich in a picture wit a nice filter. I didn't make or take this.

It was pretty much guaranteed there’d be Kraft Singles in the deli drawer. Processed cheese product, Pepperidge Farm soft whole wheat bread and butter was my the three ingredient go-to dinner when I didn’t feel like cooking.

Grilled cheese sandwiches. Crunchy on the outside, melted goo on the inside. I would put butter on both sides of the bread so the cheese would be buttery as well.

Balancing the buttered bread as I assembled the sandwiches was the hardest part. (This worked out poorly if I left the butter in the fridge. I usually kept it on the countertop. Except for that time period when the dog was on his butter diet. The other dog, when the kids were young.)

I’d butter two pieces of bread and lay the cheese in, put the bread together, then butter the top. I’d flip the top to the bottom when I put it on the grill and butter the piece that was now on top.

Actually, buttering the sandwich really wasn’t the hardest part. Fact is, I would regularly burn the grilled cheese. The toast would be black and gross on one side. Sometimes both sides, but usually after I burned one side I’d be much more mindful and avoid burning the other. I’d scrape the bad side and serve it burnt side down. Artful presentation can go a long way. They’d still notice, though.

Fact is, burnt isn’t always the same. Sometimes it just burns right at the surface–just the coating of butter. It looks bad but tastes fine. The bread under the crust is soft and the cheese nicely melted and buttered. Sometimes it’s burnt through so the bread is hard and shiny like plastic and you know this because someone at the table knocked on it like a door with a little knuckle to prove it’s lousy. When you bite in, it definitely does not taste fine.

Because of the latter disasters, the kids would not trust that the former could occur. Always twice shy, they began to turn the sandwich over on the plate to see if it was actually burnt. Woe unto me that it was not good. To make it through dinner, I’d take the one that looked most burnt. It was fine. Almost always.

And that’s what I’d do when I did not want to cook dinner.

I think I may have burnt this one as well. It will be better next time. Probably.