May 31st, 2019
There is a low area in our back yard. It doesn’t drain well, and it has been a miniature wetland ever since the snow melted. Fortunately, the plants and trees back there like wet feet. The willows and the chokecherries do okay. The locust tree thrives, and so do the walnuts and the maple. The apple tree has blossoms, and the linden tree looks lush and healthy. Eventually, the land will dry out, but that will take time.
Everything is green. It is that vivid, almost fluorescent, type of green. It’s a springtime sort of green. Photosynthesis kicking into overdrive. Every tree I see as I walk down the road silently screams: “I’m alive!”
Well, almost every tree does that. The ash trees don’t. The emerald ash borers have killed almost all of those trees. The tall ashes stand there, naked and forlorn. Their empty, withered branches reach toward the sky helplessly. I wait for the ashes to fall. It’s just a matter of time. In ten years we will have forgotten that they even existed here. The ashes will be like the elm trees that lined the city streets of my youth. Dutch elm disease killed them off. Now only old men like me remember them. Oddly enough, almost all the elms were replaced with ash saplings. Now it is the ashes turn.
Soggy suburban yards and rain-soaked farm fields are all around me. I have developed an odd appreciation for them. Karin and I spent four weeks traveling through the American West, and we slowly realized how important water is. We drove through the deserts on Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. We were impressed by the desolate beauty of the land, but we also longed for something green, anything green. We missed seeing open water; lakes and streams. We missed the rain. Rain can be grey and depressing, but it can also be comforting.
I love the desert. I love its rawness and its stark images. I love the empty spaces. I love the dark, starlit nights. But I can’t live there. Most things can’t live there. That’s the problem. As we made our journey through the desert, I kept hoping to see a tree. I just wanted to find a tree, and sit under the shade of its branches.
Now we’re home. We can sit under our trees.