My tree has talent. Standing perfectly still, it snags flying golf balls like a major league shortstop. We haven’t lost a window in 13 years living on a golf course. I’ve found balls in my front yard. I’ve had balls whiz past my head, bounce off the patio, pepper the garden, but so far, no loss of window life – knock on wood. In this case ash.
Every property deserves what Julie Messervy calls a “cosmic” tree. It’s the kind of tree that roots itself to earth and anchors the home and family with it – the kind of tree tire-swings hang from. A tree that makes big dappled shade and refuses other plants the luxury of chlorophyl. The tree who is landlord of squirrel apartment complexes. That kind of tree.
My ash was spaded from a field slated for housing development. It was 25 feet tall 13 years ago, and it would be compost today if I hadn’t walked through a field of poison ivy to find it. “We’ll take that one.”
My husband and I pounded a stake in our back yard “HERE,” away from all the bright yellow and orange spray paint lines on the ground. The ones that say “GAS LINE HERE.” More importantly, “CABLE IS HERE DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.” A huge tree-spade truck drove into our backyard with our ash and slowly raised it upright and lowered it into the enormous hole between our patio and the hot summer sun. It immediately went to work as a jungle gym, golf-ball-catching, SPF 30 sun block. Soon it began moonlighting as a bird nest holder. Cosmic.
Every other year I have my ash injected with a treatment to protect it from Emerald Ash Borer. Believe me when I say, you don’t want your ash bored. If you’re old enough to remember dutch elm disease this ash killing insect is similarly dreaded. It purportedly snuck into America on wood palettes from China. An undetected tree terrorist. I watched it spread south through the counties of Michigan a few years after we chose our ash. It’s now in Ohio, but the treatments work. No sign of the insects on our tree though plenty ash have died in our county. Many were massacred in an effort to halt its advance. I’m on a one woman mission to ensure it’s survival as shortstop.
If I can preserve our ash for 500 years, maybe it will be as big as this oak tree some day. Our son Brad photographed this amazing tree in South Carolina. She’s called Angel Oak. Like hurricanes, you know any tree that’s big enough to be named it’s going to have an impact on people. Google her.
But cosmic doesn’t have to be large, just amazing. In the home I grew up in, a 1950’s tract home, the windows in my bedroom were 5 feet off the ground. At 6 years old I wasn’t tall enough to look out at the front yard, but I could lay in bed, look up, and see nothing but pink blossoms between me and heaven. I dreamed there. The crab apple of my youth is still in the front yard. My mom is still there too. She’s anchored there as surely as her crab apple and if she has her way, she’ll outlive it. But don’t count that crab tree out. It’s cosmic.
And in my Tampa garden my Sylvester Date Palm is small but it has a big job – to remind me on days when I wake up in Florida instead of Ohio that, by God, I own a palm tree and it’s not snowing. I’ve named her Margaret. Short for Margarita.