Sunday, October 6, 2013

New life, old life, life and death

Last week was one rough mother fucker, as weeks go. Pardon me, if I offend. But it really sucked. One high point of the week, however, was planting the tree seen here in this photo:

Several years ago I had planted a magnolia tree in my backyard and every spring it would produce beautiful white flowers. Last year I took a photo of my daughter with the white blossoms:

OK, not too many flowers... but still pretty
And how fortuitous that I snapped this pic since later the same year the tree was afflicted by magnolia scales, some nasty little insect that feeds on the sap and excretes this sticky stuff that coats the leaves and turns them all black and attracts the late summer yellow jackets, one of which ended up stinging my sister and she can seriously talk for hours about how terrible that was but the yellow jackets and the magnolia scales and the now-dead tree are neither here nor there, because what I really want to talk about is the new tree I planted in its place.

Not having any dogs this summer, my backyard was badly neglected and the dead magnolia sat poking out of the ground until late August, when I adopted my latest canine sweetie-pie. When I started taking him out regularly for his potty breaks I realized how truly crappy my yard looked and slowly I have been working on bringing some life back to the yard that has often been a little sanctuary for me, a place where I feel like I can hide from some of life's evils. (One day, however, I might be out there on a windy day when a dead branch falls from a tree and kills me and we'll see how hidden from evil I am then.)

So I bought a new tree, a Japanese maple, and I dug a hole and added some of the super-high-powered dirt I create in my compost bin that makes me feel like a bona fide, groovy, all-natural, locally-grown-organic-food-buying, hemp-clothing-wearing nature nut and plopped that tree in the ground. It's a damn fine looking tree, if I do say so. And I do.

As I filled in the dirt, I added to it the ashes from my sweet dog Mandy, who I had put down last spring after she mauled the neighbors' dog. I had been waiting for a time when it felt right to put her to rest, when some of my sadness and guilt over her demise had eased up. She was the sweetest dog to the people in her life. I feel like she needed so much more than I could give her and although I gave her every ounce of love I could, I still couldn't fix her and maybe I did her a disservice by not letting someone stronger step up to take care of her. But she had needed a home and so I did what I could. When I had her put to sleep, I had a vet come to our house so she left this world in a peaceful place where she was loved and comforted and now I was adding her to my sanctuary, a place she could forever be safe and free. I pray she always knows how much I love her.

So I planted the tree, adding life to my world, and I tied to it a life that has passed. These things I did the day before my husband moved into an apartment, not entirely leaving our home, but embarking on something new that may not include the two of us living happily ever after in a holy state of matrimony. It is not what we had planned. But it can still be okay. Lives come to an end; whether it's a tree or a dog or a relationship, you don't really plan for it and it doesn't seem quite right if you did. But also new lives grow, not the same, maybe better, maybe not. I can't even take comfort in this fact because some endings are still incredibly sad and seemingly unfair. But stuff ends, just the same; lives, trees, good books, and seasons. And then there are new things. We keep going.

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