My latest project began sometime in February, when I was lying awake in the middle of the night with a throbbing knee injury, thinking about the stuff going on in my life — my kids turning rapidly into adults, my husband clearing out and selling the house he had grown up in, my brother getting engaged, a close friend disappearing from my life because of problems in his marriage, health problems in members of my extended family, my daughter living overseas for the semester. I decided then that when spring came, I would plant a tree, a way to remember this particular year, this particular stage in my life.
It sounds simple, doesn't it? Buy a tree, dig a hole, plant the tree.
But my projects are never that simple.
During the seven years I've lived in my house, I've been gradually changing the landscape around me. The scotch pines, planted many years ago by the CCC, are dying, and several came toppling down during an April snowstorm. Over the years, I've been taking out unhealthy trees, non-native species, and replacing them with trees native to the area. I've been filling in low areas in my front yard, too, with the realization that the lawn mower is the only way to keep the poison ivy from creeping right up to the front door and into my living room.
So as soon as I decided to plant a new tree, I looked out at my yard and noticed dead ones that needed to come down. On Saturday, I enlisted the help of the gang of teenagers to move the dead trees that had fallen over the winter. Dragging the dead trees off into the woods, where they can decay in peace, was the first step of the project. Then yesterday, my father came over with his chainsaw to cut down the trees I had marked in my front yard. (I have an axe, but a chainsaw is so much faster.) He cut the trees down and sawed off the branches, while my mother and I lugged logs over to the basketball court, where they would dry in the sun, and then dragged branches off into the woods.
We finished the job just in time because the topsoil I had ordered arrived soon after: fifteen cubic yards of dirt, a whole huge truckful delivered by a cheerful neighbor who dumped into right into the middle of the front yard. It's a pretty big pile of dirt, and it'll take me days to move it around, using a shovel and a wheelbarrow and a plastic toboggan that I use like a sledge. If my arms get tired, I'll probably enlist the help of my two college kids, but today, I enjoyed tackling the pile myself, shoveling dirt into low areas. I keep walking around the yard to figure out where I want to put new trees.
So that's what I've been busy with this week. I am cutting down sickly trees, pruning unhealthy growth, clearing away dead wood, spreading dirt – and making room to plant healthy trees.