Friday, September 5, 2008

Trees I Have Known

A tree fell yesterday. I heard it the night before, cracking as I walked around the yard.

I looked up, hoping to jump out of the way of whatever was about to come down, then I realized that the sound had come from across the street. Yet there was no evidence of anything. Until the next day. Yesterday half an elm lay on the ground, a great gash left in the canopy where it had split off.

I don't know why I tell you this. There are plenty of trees where you are, I am sure, and that tree holds no real significance for you. But...

But there is another tree I want to talk about -- a little Chinquapin we planted across the street a year and a half ago when Bobby moved out of the rental house.

Bobby and Bill and I cut a hole in the dying canopy of the two Ash trees in the yard of that house and let a splash of sunshine fall on the ground. And I dug a hole there and planted a little Chinquapin -- for when the Ash trees are gone.

That was a more than a year ago. And I've been walking across the street with a pail of water every couple days ever since. And sometimes some fish emulsion. Which made the tree very happy. Big glossy green Chinquapin leaves.

Bobby moved away. The next family came and went. The rental house sat empty again. A man came and repaired the tattered garage door. Another man came and pressure washed the mildewed stone walls. Another came and mowed the lawn.

"I have some bad news," Trudy told me as I sat in my hotel room looking at her grim face on my computer screen. I steeled myself but couldn't imagine what it might be. "The Chinquapin is gone," she said.

I woke up that night alone in a musty hotel room, sobbing.

The Chinquapin is gone. Only a ragged hole remains where is was yanked out by the roots from that little sunny spot. A ragged screaming hole in a sunny spot under a blue summer sky. The Chinquapin is gone.

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