1/21/2010                                                                                       View Comments

Tree Droppings

By Valerie Tarico

This morning, when I thought I had better things to do, I spent an hour cleaning gutters and sweeping tree droppings off of our back porch roof. I could have been writing the definitive article that would spread across the net and free humanity from religious fundamentalism—-or--ok, emptying the dishwasher.

I would have put it off, the tree duty I mean, but I was up against a deadline. Getting onto the porch roof means I have to wiggle on my belly out a window that only raises part way, and any year now I know that I’m going to get stuck with my top half on the outside and my butt half on the inside, waiting for my kids to come home from school and yank me out.

Wouldn’t it be so much easier to clean up after this tree if I thought like I used to? Normally another day or two wouldn’t increase the risk much, but tonight is Chocolate for Choice, an annual fund-raiser at which all of the best chocolatiers in Seattle – restaurant dessert chefs, bakers, and boutique chocolate makers –all strut their stuff. For a modest donation, you get to wander around and sample it all until you can’t. And then, if you pay for the upgrade, you get to fill a half-pound box with as much chocolate as will fit.

All of the money goes to something I care about passionately, reproductive freedom, (implication: I can actually feel virtuous about this over-the-top ritual of indulgence) which means I don’t miss it even for my husband’s birthday. Hey, honey. Guess where we’re celebrating your 45th? A few years back, I had two extra tickets by mistake, so I brought my daughters, who decided on the spot that it was an entitlement of childhood and—I should have seen this coming-- told their friends. This year, we’re going with six teenagers in tow, each of whom is planning to come home with a box of chocolate to last the week, as am I, of course.

All of which is to say, that putting off the gutter thing seemed high risk.

So there I was on the roof, having only just made it through the window, squatting to dig handfuls of wet brown half-decayed vegetable matter out of the gutter, and thinking, sympathetically for the first time, about these neighbors on the next block who chopped down two hundred-year- old trees that used to create an arching canopy leading into a park. A hundred years of growth was gone in a day, but their gutters are clean and no more leaves can fall on their weedless lawn or their clipped boxwood hedge. Those of you who know where I live are probably thinking, “I didn’t know there were Conservatives on Capitol Hill.” But there are, and I was feeling a sort of unprecedented kinship with them.

So I scowled up at the offending tree, also a hundred years old. (Brynn, who wrote about it for school once, insists that it is a Port Orchard Cedar.) It responded by swaying slightly above me and the back side of the neighbor’s garage, deep feathery green against the white sky. And when I picked up the broom, and as I swept, instead of grumblings, I found fragments of childhood poems floating through my mind– Joyce Kilmer: I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree . . . E.E. Cummings – I thank you, God, for most this amazing day, for the leaping green spirits . . . .

And I thought, Wouldn’t it be so much easier to clean up after this tree if I thought, like I used to, that God had personally given it into our care, that someone up there had assigned me stewardship of this magnificent being, and I could know that I was fulfilling my purpose? For a moment I was wistful. I thank thee, Lord, for most this amazing tree . . . . But then a different voice echoed in my head, my own voice, from a story I once wrote for my daughters: “They were not born for a Purpose,” the old healer said, “But if they seek, many purposes, great and small, will present themselves and ask to be chosen.”

Ah, I thought. I choose this purpose. I, small short-lived creature that I am, human merely being, choose to be steward of this tree, sacred to me by my own choice---even if all I have to offer it is fragments of tribute and protection from my own worst impulses.



16 comments:

webmdave said...

Could be worse. You could be the Lorax trying to save trees and people refuse to listen. Wait. People don't listen to anything concerning the environment anyway, esp the religious.

webmdave said...

"...Many purposes, great and small, will present themselves and ask to be chosen."

What a wonderful line, and what a great concept -- The idea that we choose our purposes, and are not constrained by one particular and immutable purpose assigned to us without our participation or consent.

webmdave said...

Thank god for wet dead leaves in a gutter. just one of the many things he actually IS good for.

webmdave said...

I still have leaves in my front yard should you want another purpose.

webmdave said...

This was quite beautiful. Thank you.

We have avoided cutting down our trees by making a shorter and narrower driveway than we really need, and building a boardwalk instead of a sidewalk (so as not to crowd the roots). Those gutters do not clean themselves, though, and our trees give year-round. Helicopter seeds from the Maples, tulip husks from the Tulip tree, multiple nasty things from the locusts, and acorns and mulberries from the neighbor's trees that overhang our driveway. (I talked her out of planting that sweet gum with its sticky, spiky balls on OUR side of her house, though!) And, of course, leaves.

We (meaning hubby, of course) seem to be always filling leaf bags or mulching and composting. But, then we can sit in the yard and look up through the branches at the sky and just zone out to the changing patterns, or watch the squirrels leaping from tree to tree, or help the grandson find the bugs living under a piece of bark.

I like trees.

webmdave said...

I must say I really didn't know there were any conservatives in Capitol Hill. But I don't blame them, it is the loveliest and liveliest area of Seattle.

webmdave said...

I loved that book! Still do. When I was a kid, we had a cherry-headed conure who loved for people to talk to him. He would try to talk along with you, and he learned a few words, but he sounded like Elmer Fudd when he spoke. I used to read The Lorax to him everyday. He loved it! Strange bird. Strange child. ;)

webmdave said...

My sons loved the book too. :) We have two or three copies of it. I had to buy more because be older son wore it out reading it to himself. lol

webmdave said...

Thank you, Valerie. This was more like listening to a beautiful song than reading an article. Love your stuff!

webmdave said...

Thank you! I just wasn't in the mood to write one more expose on the relentless bad behavior of Christianity in the limelight.

webmdave said...

I am. I could probably rant all day about the nutters, Pat Robberson included.

webmdave said...

I am. I could probably rant all day about the nutters, Pat Robberson included.

webmdave said...

Thank you, Valerie. This was more like listening to a beautiful song than reading an article. Love your stuff!

webmdave said...

Thank you! I just wasn't in the mood to write one more expose on the relentless bad behavior of Christianity in the limelight.

webmdave said...

My sons loved the book too. :) We have two or three copies of it. I had to buy more because be older son wore it out reading it to himself. lol

webmdave said...

I still have leaves in my front yard should you want another purpose.