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!

The Blob

Our front yard started with a big honking For Sale sign (which I had The Spouse rip out of the ground as soon as we closed on the house because I didn’t want to give that idiot realtor even one second of advertisement) and a little bit of landscaping. There were two or three hostas, a few mounds of Sweet William and a small boxwood. The shrubbery was about two feet square and maybe eighteen inches tall.

Over the years the boxwood grew. The Spouse had a dull set of clippers he’d use to keep it in shape, but the plant was sneaky. It would always grow a little more than he trimmed. Slowly, it crowded out the hostas. It grew tall and wide, deep green and bushy. Grew being the key word.

I’m not sure when I started calling it The Blob. Maybe it was when I noticed that the hostas had been swallowed up.  The porch might have been next. But The Spouse was confident that he could control the creature. I was less certain. I didn’t like it. No, I did not like it one bit.

The Blob soon engulfed the entire front yard. There was a very narrow path, less than a little trail’s worth, around it. The Blob grew taller than me. Eventually it became impossible to reach to trim the middle of the monster. It overtook the view from the picture window in the toy room. Porch sitters were hidden from sidewalk strollers. Feral cats, raccoons, oppossums and flesh eating spiders (I’m less sure about this last one) lurked in and around it.

My dislike for this thing, this Blob, grew along with it.

Last winter–when we had a real winter with cold weather and snow–the Beast went mad when we stepped off of the porch. There was a few inches of snow on the ground. He furiously sniffed near the Blob and suddenly bolted. There was something loitering behind that stupid Blob. I was on the ground and he dragged me  to the back of the Blob. I was screaming “STOP,” punctuated by short, guttural words that rhymed with truck.

The Blob didn’t eat me, but it could have. I was about ready to sacrifice the Beast to the monster. Instead the Beast, surprised to see me on the ground and in the snow, thought it was a game. I did not find it entertaining. No, not one bit.

Once, in the Spring, I saw a trio of little sparrows that were being chased by the neighborhood hawk fly into the sanctuary of its boughs. And then there were the nests and little eggs that sheltered in the arms of its nursery.

Still, it had to go. Since it was beautiful and healthy, someone said that it was valuable. I tried to give it away. There were a few window shoppers. They looked underneath its branches and were shocked to see that it grew from a one root, a single specimen.  Unfortunately, nobody could figure out how to get it out.  Well, one guy said he’d need a crane. No takers.

So today, Julio and his crew came by. In less than thirty minutes, it was gone. Twenty-five years of growth disappeared in less time than a lunch break. Bye Blob. It was you or the yard. I really won’t miss you, but I am still sad to see you go. Funny how you can have both of those feelings at once.

The spot is readied for a birch tree, with that beautiful smooth gray-white bark. The tree will contribute to the replenishment of the city’s tree canopy. It’s native and helps with the water table. It’ll shade the front of the house, host some nests and allow space for ground greenery.

I’m thinking hostas. Maybe some Sweet William. Nothing invasive though. We know where that leads.

Air Aria

A tree on 10th Street. There is a glass building behind it.

It almost sounded more like squeaking bedsprings than tweets and chirps. Except that there would have been an old time hospital ward full of beds, and those beds would need to be fully exerted in a most athletic fashion to create this level of racket.

Maybe the tree was a bird version of a packed convention center exhibit hall, the echoing din of vendor and vendee voices combining to fill the cavern. Except that the pitch was much higher and frequently punctuated. The noise didn’t grow to a generalized loud buzz. It didn’t fade into the background. It was scraped, like a metal rake on concrete, onto the air.

You couldn’t actually see the birds in the tree, but there were likely hundreds. It wasn’t as much that the tree was large–although it was–but that there were a lot of birds. Peering into the dark foliage you might think you could make out the movement of a bird, but it was as likely to be the movement of a leaf. Undoubtably disturbed by a camouflaged bird. Their shiny black eyes didn’t reflect any light and their beaks and wings melted into the evening shadow of the bounteous greenery.

Walking under the tree, people only thought about birds dropping. Not the birds themselves, you know. The gray sidewalk was splashed with white splatter shapes of guano. It wasn’t slick, but it looked it. Pedestrian heads ping-ponged between carefully looking up to avoid walking into dropping poop–carefully in that they didn’t want anything falling into their eyes–and looking  down at the ground to avoid a slip and a fall onto the fresh “paint.”

But it was the shrill turbulence of peeps and warbles, and the furious rustling of leaves and branches, that drew attention. And questions. Why that tree? Why so many birds? Why this evening?

As the walkers reached the second half of the block, they forgot that they had even wondered.


Judgement In Love

A typewriter with a paper that has "My New Life, Chapter 1" typed on it.

Have you been in love? Have you had that flush and rush when you see the perpetrator of your condition?

Have you lost your breath? Have you sat looking at the phone–no willing the phone–to announce an encounter? Have you traded texts into the wee hours of the night to wake up with a groggy smile a few short hours later?

Have you cancelled plans, blown off friends, contorted your calendar to be with someone? Have you felt deliciously guilty, while feeling delicious, too?

Love is not the most rational of feelings. It may just be one of the least rational. Deciding that you want to be with just one person permanently precipitates a headlong jump off a cliff for some. For others it’s an agonizing decision, because, how can you know? What if you’re wrong? How do you figure out if this is the one? And even after soul searching and angst, when you decide “yes, this is the one,” you find that you hurled yourself off a cliff, just like the other guy. It just took you a little longer. That’s what love does.

Love requires you to give at least a little part of yourself away. You give some of you to someone else to hold for safekeeping. It makes you think the best of your partner, because you have committed to trusting. And in committing you become loyal.

Your commitment isn’t just to the loved one. It’s to the relationship you share. It’s to that part where you’re holding a bit of each other. The wedding ring isn’t my ring. It’s The Spouse’s ring. It’s a symbol of the love and loyalty promised to me, to our family and to the meta-us.

And hells no!, this is not rational. It’s risky. It’s dangerous. It’s crazy.

So the love thing has to be somewhat pliant, like a green twig. It has to be strong to support change and growth, but still able to bend without breaking.

Overtime, the twig grows into a trunk with branches. The tree has to bend in a storm. Some branches might get brittle and break. But by growing more branches, more chances, it may survive.

Unless it gets hollowed out. And you sometimes can’t see that coming. Or you see it weakening so you add more water and fertilizer until you realize that you are just piling manure higher and higher on a tree with sap that’s no longer flowing. It’s just dried out. And it’s sad. And you maybe did or maybe didn’t lie to yourself.

Anyway, don’t blame someone for loving. Don’t blame them for hoping. Don’t blame them for forgiving and giving–yet another chance. Nobody wants to see their beautiful beginnings turned into a shit pile.

There is flawed judgement in love, but let’s not be quick to judge those in love. Bottom line, be kind.

Post #198

A break in the trees at the National Arboretum. Stylized.

Oh, jeez. I suffered by writing most of today. And I am going to take a pause as well as some credit for a post today.

I wrote today using incomplete sentences. I wrote using stupidly long words. I wrote in a stiff and stifled fashion. I wrote because I had to, but not like it was me writing. Like some person who seemed like me was writing. So. I am writing a few words so late today, just a few words, that are authentically my own.

I am including a nice picture in lieu of a decent post. This picture was snapped on a day we took a walk in the National Arboretum. If you haven’t been there, I recommend it. On another day, I will write about an occurrence there with the Big Guy.

So this might not be an interesting post, but I bet I got you interested in a future post.

Monkey Shines

Trees at the subway. Washington DC

The boy dropped his dad’s hand at the top of the escalator. He was barely a boy, really, more like just-past baby. It was the end of the day and the rush hour throng was thinning. They, the boy and his dad, had just walked the half-mile from school.

School was what they called where he spent his day. The curriculum was directed by the kids. It included many games that they made up, some reading of stories, much playing outside and eating. The boy liked the eating. He liked the other parts, but he liked the eating.

They would cut through the subway on the way home, coming down the escalator on the west side, walking underneath the tracks and out the other side up the escalator. The boy liked to run through the in between tunnel with his dad.

It was early spring so the shadows were long. The boy wore his green zip up fleece. It wasn’t a bright green, more like a pine green. The cap that he wore over his titian hair was a contrasting blue. This blue was between light blue and aqua blue. More blue than green and more bright and vibrant than light. His cap was also fleecy, but baseball style. It sat on his head with the bill a bit to the left, not centered over his nose.

His nose had the mark of a run-in with a tree. A few days before, he was running–he ran a lot–and forgot to look where he was going. A tree reminded him of where he was. You could still see where the tree stopped him, but the wound was covered with a brown scab on his otherwise smooth, porcelain skin.

He took off down the sidewalk. He ran past the double metal fence that created an unnecessary walkway that only kids used. He didn’t use it today. He ran around it. He didn’t see that the cherry trees lining the walkway were starting to bud. He buzzed past the low evergreen shrubs. They weren’t low to him, though. He couldn’t see above them. Maybe that’s why he missed the cherries behind them.

He ran toward the street, but there was no worry that he would run out into it. He was going to his tree. His dad lengthened his step and reached the tree just as the boy was climbing one of the low branches. The old tree trunk was almost split, so the boy didn’t have to struggle to find his place in it’s arms. This was an apple tree–maybe crabapple–so it was behind the cherry trees in blooming. He perched himself in the tree, about four and a half feet above the ground.

“Daddy, I’m Hans the monkey. And this is my Hans tree.”

Nobody knew where the name Hans came from. There were no monkeys named Hans in his books or in his songs or in his movies. None of his friends or relatives had the name Hans. But there he was, Hans the Monkey, nesting in the tree.

He was close to face level with his dad, as his dad sidled up under the tree and placed his face near his. They shared some nonsense and then his dad started to walk up the rise to the street.

“Come on, Hans.”

The little monkey scampered down the tree and grabbed his dad’s hand. They walked the rest of the way home.

Nobody ever asked who Hans was. That would break the spell.